Health & Welfare News

Gender Ministry switches sides on 'healthy family'

  • Date 2022-09-23
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This is a copyrighted material of The Korea JoongAng Daily.

Friday, September 23

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family reversed its support for a Democratic Party (DP)-sponsored bill that would scrap the legal definition of a family, which excludes nontraditional households and couples.

The proposed amendment to the Framework Act on Healthy Families, which was proposed by DP lawmakers Jung Chounsook and Nam In-sook, is opposed by religious organizations and some school parents' associations as potentially paving the way for recognition of same-sex partnerships.

According to conservative People Power Party (PPP) lawmaker Chung Kyung-hee, the Gender Equality Ministry submitted its opinion that the Framework Act should be maintained as is.

Key provisions and phrases in the law targeted by the two DP lawmakers' bill include Article 3, which defines "family" as "the fundamental group unit of society formed by marriage, blood or adoption," and repeated use of the term "healthy home" throughout the law. 

If passed, the DP bill would remove the definition of "family" altogether and replace all mentions of "healthy home" with "home"

The Gender Equality Ministry's decision to support the law as it is currently written is a reversal from its position during the Moon Jae-in administration.

The ministry's previous opinion concerning the law, which was submitted to the National Assembly in December 2020, expressed support for eliminating the definition of family as it could be interpreted to exclude foster families, cohabiting couples and common law marriages.

But according to a statement submitted to Chung on Thursday, the Gender Equality Ministry said, "Healthy families are a policy goal and the [prevailing] definition of the home and family should be maintained as they are commonly understood in both practice and law."

The Framework Act on Healthy Families has been controversial since it was passed in December 2023, when the conservative Grand National Party held a majority in the 16th National Assembly. The PPP traces its political lineage back to the Grand National Party.

The act has long been condemned by gender equality activists, who argue that it alienates and condones discrimination against single mothers, same-sex couples and other unmarried partnerships.

Similar arguments have been raised during the current 21st National Assembly.

While the DP has argued that it is necessary to recognize various family types beyond those bound by marriage, blood ties, and adoption, the PPP has characterized attempts to scrap the current legal definition of family as a "plot by a minority group to divide society in extreme ways."

Conservative-leaning Christian organizations and parents' groups ahve also opposed what they see as an attempt to effectively recognize same-sex couples as family units by abolishing the legal definition.

Korea does not recognize same-sex unions.

In January, the Seoul Administrative Court ruled against a same-sex couple who demanded spousal health insurance coverage as offered to heterosexual couples.

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