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As South Korea's population shrinks, same-sex couples say they can help

SUWON, South Korea — South Koreans Kim Eun-ha and Park Cho-hyeon would like to get married and have children, a plan that fits in with government ambitions to boost the world's lowest fertility rate.

The catch is that same-sex unions remain illegal in South Korea, and doctors refuse to perform artificial insemination on women without a male partner, citing ethical guidelines.

"A lot of single people and lesbian couples around me want to have children. If the various types of families who can have children are accepted first, I think it will contribute a lot to the fertility rate," Kim Eun-ha told Reuters.

While campaigns to legalise same-sex marriage have succeeded in Taiwan and Thailand, there is no legal acknowledgement of LGBT partnerships in South Korea and many couples are forced move abroad if they want to get married or have a baby.

Every year, the LGBT community faces a lot of opposition to the annual Seoul Queer Culture Festival from conservative religious groups that have mounted fierce resistance to efforts to pass laws against discrimination.

Kim Ji-hak, who heads non-profit organisation Diversity Korea, said the government should acknowledge diversity if it is serious about increasing the birthrate.

South Korea has spent billions of dollars to try to stop its population from shrinking, as concerns about career advancement and the financial cost of raising children drive many South Korean women to delay childbirth or not have children at all.

Despite these efforts, the population declined for a fourth straight year in 2023.

"If we become a society where people don't have to worry about healthcare, education, labour and ageing, everyone will want to have more children," Kim said.

There have been a few steps