Translation: What is Family?

The following is a translation of a Huffington Post Korea article by Director Kim Jho Gwang su written last week about his efforts to obtain legal recognition of his marriage to Kim Seung-hwan. The original can be found here

The Supreme Court of the United States made a historic ruling on the 26th of June, 2015, to legalize same-sex marriage. Immediately after the decision, President Barack Obama tweeted his thoughts saying "Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else."
The news spread quickly not only throughout the United States and was met with support and cheer throughout the world. The world's citizens began to use the hashtag "#lovewins" through SNS services like Twitter and Facebook to show how love is stronger than discrimination toward sexual minorities and through people using the LGBT movement's symbolic six-color flag as a filter on their Facebook profile picture, they joined together in a historical moment for equality. Our country was no exception. 
Source: Kim Jho Gwang Su and Kim Seung-hwan
Looking at this historical decision, memories of a painful event
On the day that same-sex marriage was legalized throughout the country, I remembered an incident in fall of 2013. The incident was reported in the following way: "On the 30th of October, 2013, at 6:40 in the morning, 62-year-old Ms. X's body was found in a flower bed of an apartment a citizen, who reported it to the police. Ms. X had that morning jumped from the apartment she was living in. In her pant's' pocket, a note was discovered saying to "Donate my body" (시신 기증). According to police reports, Ms. X had graduated from a nearby girl's vocational school and had been living with another alumni of the school, Ms. Y, for more than 40 years. Ms. Y  had been diagnosed with late stage cancer in September and had died in the hospital in early October while receiving treatment. Ms. X said that there was friction with Ms. Y's family caused by economic problems during the process of caring for Ms. Y." (Seoul Newspaper, 2013/10/31) 
Graduates from a girl's high school living together for more than 40 years. Seeing the news story, seeing how one died from cancer and the other committed suicide from jumping from the apartment the two had lived in, was shocking. I exhaustively searched for other articles. Pieces of their lives could be found in articles here and there. It was reported the two had met while at a girl's high school. They had lived together for more than 40 years. One person had a job and earned money while the other stayed at home to do domestic work. The two lived together for around 40 years but they weren't able to receive legal recognition as a family. The two's assets were under the name of Ms. Y (the one who worked). The same with the house and savings. When Ms. Y was diagnosed with cancer, it had already spread beyond control. In the letter of admittance form, a family member had to sign, but Ms. X wasn't family so she had to go and find Ms. Y's family. At that point, Ms. Y's nephew made sure that Ms. X could not use savings or the house that were under Ms. Y's name. In the end,  Ms. X was not allowed to be by Ms. Y's side when she succumbed to the disease in the ICU, and in this way had to say goodbye to the person she had lived with for more than 40 years. Not long after Ms. Y left this world, Ms. X ended up throwing herself from the balcony where they two had lived. Seeing the note left to donate her body, I burst into tears. 
I can't even imagine how that person felt. If it was me... If I was treated in that way by the family of the person I had lived with for more than 40 years, not able to take care of the one who hurt, if I wasn't able to say goodbye when they passed. If it was me, what would I do? 
We can't know what kind of relationship Ms. X and Ms. Y had. But I don't think that is important. Living for 40 years under the same roof, isn't that a family? Is there any thing more important in the idea of a family? Even so, the two were not able to receive any sort of legal protection as a family. Not only legal protection, but they weren't afforded any social or cultural protection as well. Rather, as it wasn't a 'normal family', they needed to be separated, they weren't even allowed to be together as one person fought with a disease, and the one left behind had to be accused of laying her fingers on property that wasn't hers.
Now, it is time to embrace a variety of relationships
In our country, there are not many legal ways to be considered a family. First of all, blood. If your blood is the same you just become family. The word family is extended to parents and offspring, as well as siblings. There are two other ways to become family other than through blood. The first is marriage, and the second is adoption. Marriage is the case where you meet an other and become a family. Through the simple system of marriage registration, you can easily marry someone and become a family provided they are older than 20 (TKQ: Korean age), are not currently married, they are not a close relative, etc. (In the case of those younger than 18, marriage is not allowed and those older than 18 but a minor, marriage is allowed with permission of the parents). It is said that there are thousands of legal and institutional benefits provided to those who become family through a marriage. Through marriage, they become a couple (부부) and are recognized as a new family. However, marriage is only available to heterosexuals in our country. On the other hand, adoption requires a lot of rigid steps compared to marriage. When the adoption is beautifully recognized, the name given by blood can be received as well. In this way, established families are an important unit recognized by society and receive both legal and institutional protection. 
As of now, relationships other than blood, marriage, or adoption cannot become families. Specifically, if a relationship is established through blood and the two only meet once or twice a year at holidays, or even don't see each other for decades, they are family. On the other hand, two people who have no blood relationship but spend 40 living together cannot become a family. We need to think about whether our family system is rational. We need to think whether we need to accept those who have a relationship out side of blood, marriage, or adoption, and if so we need to think about how we should regulate and protect those relationships. 
Already, 'civil marriages' are being recognized in several countries as a way to recognize new families. There are also many countries like the US that recognize same-sex marriage, and systems that recognize couples who have not married (including same-sex couples) as having the same relationship as married couples, and countries that recognize community families rather than couples. 
Even if it is late to the game, we also need to expand what we consider a family. Article 11 Section 1 of Korea's constitutional law, stating that all citizens should be treated equally in front of the law, must not be a law in theory only.