KAL accepts gay couple as family

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KAL accepts gay couple as family

Korean Air has accepted the registration of a lesbian couple in their 40s as “family” that can share and pass on flight mileages in what is being heralded as a landmark move by a major company in a country that does not allow marriage or any form of legal partnership to same-sex couples.

The airline offers a Skypass Family Plan that allows family members to pool mileage points and upgrade seats for one another. According to the terms and conditions, parents, spouses, children, grandchildren and parents-in-law count as family.

Registering as family involves submitting government documents to prove a legal relationship. However, as Korea does not recognize any form of same-sex marriage, gay couples were unable to prove a familial relationship.

The Korean couple got past the process by submitting a marriage certificate issued by the Canadian government in 2013 and U.S. tax report papers from 2018. In less than a day, Korean Air got back to them Monday with a notice saying the family registration was complete.

Korean Air confirmed the registration on Thursday, with a spokesman admitting he was bemused by the media attention as the airline has never discriminated against sexual orientation, only requiring that official documents are provided.

During the process, the airline requested additional documents as the name on the marriage certificate and the Skypass membership didn’t match, but nonetheless the entire process took less than 24 hours.

The story was introduced on the couple’s blog, showing a snapshot of the Korean Air mobile app that shows their relationship as “spouse.” Both Korean nationals, the couple is currently living in the United States.

“We submitted the papers thinking it won’t be possible as Korea doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage,” the blogger wrote. “But we got a notice saying we were registered as family in less than day. (…) The process was so easy and fast; it didn’t feel real.”

“We didn’t really expect this to be a story - if you have official, government-approved documents, family registration is always possible,” the spokesman said. The same rule also applies for couples that are registered as civil partners in countries like the United States and Canada.

Whether this is the first time Korean Air has recognized a queer couple as family is unknown, said the spokesman, as the company does not keep track of such information.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]

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