Buoyed by a landmark US Supreme Court ruling, a prominent South Korean gay rights campaigner and movie director is suing officials for refusing to recognise his 2013 same-sex marriage.
Kim Jho Gwang-Soo — a rare openly gay celebrity in South Korea — and his partner Kim Seung-Hwan took their fight for legitimacy to a district court in western Seoul on Monday.
The couple held an outdoor wedding ceremony in Seoul in September 2013 and submitted their marriage registration form to their local authority — only for it to be rejected.
While homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea, same-sex marriage is not recognised.
Gay and transgender people live largely under the radar in a country that remains deeply conservative about matters of sexual identity and where many still regard homosexuality as a foreign phenomenon.
Monday’s court hearing, held behind closed doors, marked the first effort by a same-sex couple in South Korea to acquire legal status for their marriage.
“If you are a Korean citizen, you are equal under Korean law,” Kim, 50, told reporters outside the court.
“I hope through this trial we can uncover this constitutional principle,” Kim said, adding that he had pleaded with the court to “acknowledge our marriage before I die.”
The lawsuit has been given added prominence by the June 26 Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal throughout the United States.
Celebrations of the landmark decision were at the heart of what organisers described as South Korea’s biggest annual gay pride parade on June 28.
Concerns over potential clashes with Christian activists prompted police to ban the march a month before it was due to take place, but a Seoul court later overturned the ban.
Police estimated more than 6,000 people took part in the hour-long parade in Seoul, while organisers put the number at more than 20,000.