Recognition of same-sex unions in South Korea

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Legal status of same-sex unions

* Not yet in effect, but automatic deadline set by judicial body for same-sex marriage to become legal

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South Korea recognizes neither same-sex marriage nor any other form of legal union for same-sex couples.


Homosexuality laws in Asia
Same-sex sexual activity legal
  Marriage performed
  Foreign same-sex marriages recognized
  Other type of partnership
  Legal guardianships or unregistered cohabitation
(stripes: nonbinding certificates)
  No recognition of same-sex couples
  Restrictions on freedom of expression
Same-sex sexual activity illegal
  Prison on books but not enforced
  Life imprisonment
  Death penalty on books but not applied
  Death penalty

In October 2014, a bill to legalize life partnerships (Korean: 생활동반자관계)[1] was proposed by some members of the Minjoo Party of Korea (Democratic Party). Life partnerships would have been open to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. Couples would have also been able to receive tax benefits already given to married spouses as well as protection from domestic violence, in addition to other benefits.[2] However, the bill was never brought to a vote.

In January 2018, LGBT activists expressed hopes that a draft constitution, which had to be ready by June 2018, would include the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Amendments to the South Korean Constitution require a two-thirds majority in Parliament.[3] Talks on a new constitution failed, however.[4]

Legal challenges[edit]

On July 30, 2004, the Sexual Minorities Committee filed a formal complaint against the Incheon District Court's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages. The complaint was filed on the grounds that the decision is unconstitutional since neither the Constitution of South Korea nor civil law define marriage as being between a man and a woman (the only mentioned requisite is the age of majority) and that the Constitution explicitly forbids discrimination "pertaining to all political, economic, social, or cultural aspects of life of an individual." The Committee also claimed that refusal to recognize same-sex marriages constitutes discrimination based on sexual orientation and a refusal to provide equal protection under the law.[5] The complaint was ultimately rejected.

Film director Kim Jho Kwang-soo, who is gay, had a public wedding on 7 September 2013.

In July 2015, Kim Jho Kwang-soo and his partner, Kim Seung-Hwan, filed a lawsuit seeking legal status for their marriage after their marriage registration form was rejected by the local authorities in Seoul. The couple held a wedding ceremony in September 2013.[6] On 25 May 2016, the Seoul Western District Court ruled against the couple and argued that without clear legislation a same-sex union cannot be recognized as a marriage.[7] The couple quickly filed an appeal against the district court ruling. Their lawyer, Ryu Min-Hee, announced that two more same-sex couples had filed separate lawsuits in order to be allowed to wed.[8] On 5 December 2016, a South Korean appeals court upheld the district court's ruling, finding that it had no legal flaws. The couple subsequently announced that they will bring their case to the Supreme Court.[9]

In February 2019, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea rejected a petition filed by a British-South Korean same-sex couple who married in the United Kingdom and asked for their marriage to be recognized in South Korea. The committee argued that a judicial interpretation of marriage needs to be dealt with, and that "social consensus must be reached" before permitting same-sex marriage.[10][11]

Political opinions[edit]


The Democratic Labor Party, established in January 2000, was a major political party in South Korea and had a political panel known as the Sexual Minorities Committee (Korean: 민주노동당 성소수자위원회) which advocated the recognition and political representation of sexual minorities. Their stated agenda included a campaign against homophobia and discrimination based on sexual orientation, equal rights for sexual minorities (in their own words, "complete freedom, equality, and right of pursuit of happiness for homosexuals"),[12] as well as the legalization of same-sex marriages.[12] In its campaign bid for the 2004 parliamentary elections, the Democratic Labor Party promised the abolition of all inequalities against sexual minorities and won a record 10 seats in the National Assembly. The party later merged with the Unified Progressive Party in 2011, which was banned in 2014 on charges of plotting a pro-North Korea rebellion.

The Justice Party and the Green Party have also voiced their support for LGBT rights and for legal protections and recognition of same-sex unions. Some members of the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) have expressed support as well.[13]

In an interview held in September 2014 and later published in October, Mayor of Seoul Park Won-soon announced his support of same-sex marriage,[14] saying he hopes South Korea becomes the first Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage. A few days later, the City Government announced that his words were misinterpreted and that Park's words were that "maybe South Korea would become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage". This came after backlash as well as fierce hostility from conservative Christian groups.[15]

During the 2017 presidential election, only one of the 14 presidential candidates in 2017, Justice Party's Sim Sang-jung, voiced clear support for LGBT rights.[16]


The Liberty Korea Party (LKP) is opposed to LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.[17]

On December 19, 2007, Lee Myung-bak of the conservative Grand National Party won the presidential election. In a 2007 newspaper interview, the president-elect stated that homosexuality is "abnormal", and that he opposed the legal recognition of same-sex marriages.[18]

Current President Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) opposes same-sex marriage.[19]

Public opinion[edit]

In April 2013, a Gallup poll revealed that 25% of South Koreans supported same-sex marriage, while 67% opposed it and 8% did not know or refused to answer.[20] A May 2013 Ipsos poll found that 26% of respondents were in favour of same-sex marriage and another 31% supported other forms of recognition for same-sex couples.[21]

A matchmaking website asked 616 people between 25 July to 1 August 2015 about their views on same-sex marriage. Nearly 70% of female respondents agreed that same-sex marriage is acceptable, while 50.2% of men were against legalizing same-sex marriage. The majority of respondents who supported same-sex marriage said they did so because marriage was a personal choice (67.5%), 13.6% said sexual orientation was determined by nature and 12% said it would help end discrimination.[22][23]

A 2017 Gallup Korea poll found that 58% of South Koreans were against same-sex marriage, while 34% supported it and 8% remained undecided.[24] Another survey in December 2017 conducted by Gallup for MBC and the Speaker of the National Assembly reported that 41% of South Koreans thought that same-sex marriage should be allowed, 52% were against it.[25]

Public support for same-sex marriage is growing rapidly. In 2010, 30.5% and 20.7% of South Koreans in their 20s and 30s, respectively, supported the legalization of same-sex marriages. In 2014, these numbers had almost doubled to 60.2% and 40.4%. Support among people over 60, however, remained unchanged (14.4% to 14.5%).[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (in Korean) 애인·친구와는 ‘법적 가족’ 될 수 없을까요?
  2. ^ (in Korean) 연애 말고, 결혼 말고, 동반자!
  3. ^ Battle Over South Korea’s Constitutional Reform Focuses on LGBT Rights
  4. ^ New speaker calls for parties' bill to revise Constitution by year-end
  5. ^ 블로그 :: 네이버[dead link]
  6. ^ Avery, Dan (26 May 2016). "South Korean Courts Rejects Same-Sex Marriage". NextNowNext.
  7. ^ "South Korean court rejects film director's same-sex marriage case". The Guardian. 25 May 2016.
  8. ^ Duffy, Nick (26 May 2016). "South Korea set for more court battles over same-sex marriage ban". Pink News.
  9. ^ S. Korean court rejects gay couple's appeal over same-sex marriage
  10. ^ Glauert, Rik (1 March 2019). "South Korea rights body claims it does not 'deny' same-sex marriage". Gay Star News.
  11. ^ So-hyun, Kim (27 February 2019). "Rights panel says kt doesn't "deny" same-sex marriage". The Kore Herald.
  12. ^ a b (in Korean) 한국정당사 첫 동성애 공식기구 떴다 : 정치 : 인터넷한겨레
  13. ^ Ji-won, Park (6 August 2019). "Will LGBTQ issue become visible in 2020 general election?". The Korea Times.
  14. ^ "Seoul mayor Park Won-soon endorses same-sex marriage in first for South Korean politics". The Independent. 13 October 2014.
  15. ^ "Seoul mayor backtracks on gay marriage". Gay Star News. 20 October 2014.
  16. ^ Steger, Isabella (27 April 2017). "Being a progressive politician in Korea doesn't stop you from being homophobic". Quartz. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  17. ^ McCurry, Justin (4 May 2017). "South Korea must end gay solider 'witch-hunt', campaigners say". The Guardian. Seoul.
  18. ^ South Korea: Right Wing Leader Condemns Homosexuality
  19. ^ "South Korea's presidential hopeful Moon Jae In under fire over anti-gay comment". The Straits Times. 26 April 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  20. ^ "South Korea easing homophobic views on news of gay 'wedding'". NewsComAu. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  21. ^ "Same-Sex Marriage". Ipsos. 7–21 May 2013. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  22. ^ "South Korea women overwhelmingly support gay marriage, men not so much". Gay Star News. 6 August 2015.
  23. ^ Unmarried Korean women overwhelmingly in support of same-sex marriage, 50% of unmarried men against
  24. ^ Tai, Crystal (17 September 2018). "Why is South Korea so intolerant of its gay community?". South China Morning Post.
  25. ^ "특집 여론조사…국민 59.7% "적폐청산 수사 계속해야"". MBC News. 26 Dec 2017.
  26. ^ Over the Rainbow: Public Attitude Toward LGBT in South Korea The Asian Institute for Policy Studies