Same-sex couple seeks to gain legal status

December 10, 2013
Movie director Kim-Jho Kwang-soo, left, 48, and his partner Kim Seung-hwan hold a blown-up copy of a marriage registration form during a press conference at which they urged the government to recognize their union at the office of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy in central Seoul, Tuesday. They sent their marriage registration form to Seodaemun District Office, but the office said it will not accept it. (Yonhap)

Movie director Kim-Jho Kwang-soo, left, 48, and his partner Kim Seung-hwan hold a blown-up copy of a marriage registration form during a press conference at which they urged the government to recognize their union at the office of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy in central Seoul, Tuesday. They sent their marriage registration form to Seodaemun District Office, but the office said it will not accept it. (Yonhap)

By Kim Jae-won

A same-sex couple is seeking to gain legal status for the first time here, asking the government not to discriminate against sexual minorities in having a family.

Movie director Kim-Jho Kwang-soo, 48, and his partner Kim Seung-hwan, 29, said Tuesday that they will send their marriage registration form to the Seodaemun District Office.

Their application for legal marriage status came after they became the nation’s first same-sex couple to hold a wedding ceremony in public in September.

“There is no reason whatsoever for the government not to accept our marriage registration,” Kim-Jho said in a press conference. “We are excluded from all the social security benefits for married couples, such as a better health insurance package and low-interest-rate mortgage plans. We want to have same rights as heterosexual couples.”

Kim Seung-hwan said that he is afraid that he cannot sign a medical consent form for his partner because he is not the legal spouse of Kim-Jho.

“What if Kim-Jho needs surgery, and a doctor asks me to sign for him? If I am not his legal spouse, I will not be able to do that. I don’t want to imagine such a situation.”

However, the Seodaemun office said that it will not accept the registration form because it was a “violation” of the Constitution.

“We will decline the couple’s submission to be registered as a married couple and send back their form. Same-sex marriage does not comply with the Constitution, which defines that marriage is only recognized for heterosexual couples,” said Kim Won-seok, a spokesman at the office.

Legal representatives of the couple did not agree, and vowed to file a lawsuit against the move.

“It is a misunderstanding of the Constitution. It does not rule out the possibility of same-sex marriage,” said Lee Seok-tae, head lawyer of the Duksu Law Office, which represents the couple.

Lee said that neither the Constitution nor the Civil Law prohibits same-sex partners from tying the knot, though there is no clear clause which supports it.

“We will fight this matter in court. We will file a lawsuit against the district office if it does not accept the registration.”

Lee said Korea needs to recognize same-sex marriages as soon as possible, following in the footsteps of 15 countries worldwide, including the Netherlands and Belgium, which allow gay people to marry.

However, not all people support the marriage of same-sex couples. A group of activists opposed to it staged a rally outside the office of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) in central Seoul where the couple held a press conference. They said that same-sex marriage threatens the future of the country because it undermines the social responsibility of family and reduces the birthrate.

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