The Korea Herald


Rights panel says it doesn’t “deny” same-sex marriage

By Kim So-hyun

Published : Feb. 27, 2019 - 15:29

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The nation’s human rights panel said it does not “deny” same-sex marriage, but that a policy review and social consensus are necessary before same-sex marriages can be recognized under the law.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea made the remarks in rejecting a petition filed by a gay couple who got married overseas and asked for their marriage to be recognized here.

National Human Rights Commission of Korea (Yonhap) National Human Rights Commission of Korea (Yonhap)

A 35-year-old British man named Simon Hunter-Williams married a South Korean man in the UK in 2015 and submitted the petition in 2017, asking the Korean government to guarantee their rights as a married couple. 

The rights panel said it decided to reject the petition as there was a need to review the case from a policy perspective.

By law, rejection of a petition by the rights panel is different from dismissal of a petition.

According to Article 32 of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea Act, the commission must reject a petition if “the contents of said petition do not fall under the scope of the matters subject to the investigation” of the panel. 

On the other hand, the commission is obligated to dismiss petitions if they contain false statements, if they do not concern human rights violations or discrimination as defined in Korean law, or if “the injury related to the petition has already been relieved.”

The Korean courts do not recognize marriage contracts between individuals of the same sex and do not view their relationship as that of a married couple, the panel said.

For a same-sex spouse of a Korean national to receive authorization to stay here on an F-6 visa, issued to foreign nationals married to Koreans, the judicial interpretations of the definition of a married couple and the validity of a marriage under the Civil Act would have to be revised, and a social consensus on same-sex marriage must be reached, the panel said.

The commission stressed that while its decision was based on the law, the rights body was not speaking out against same-sex marriage.

It has participated in LGBT festivals, with its leader delivering a congratulatory speech at one such festival.

Hunter-Williams was seeking a spousal visa so that he could reside in Korea with the legal status of a foreign spouse.

He sent a petition addressed to President Moon Jae-in last year, requesting that foreign spouses of Korean nationals in same-sex marriages be allowed to apply for F-6 spousal visas, but he received a negative reply from the Justice Ministry.

By Kim So-hyun (