South Korea:Are pets property or life?

| 30 Jan 2020

Controversy has erupted over a Bill which proposes to consider pet insurance as a form of life plan to reflect the fact that insurers are dealing with another kind of life. The argument is over how pets are to be identified in insurance plans.

The Bill, proposed by lawmaker Kim Byung-wook, intends to place pet insurance plans as in a category of life insurance, known as Category Three, reported Korea Bizwire. Category Three insurance products can be handled by both life and general insurance companies whose businesses are otherwise strictly demarcated.

The Bill, if approved, amends the current insurance legislation to enable Category Three plans to cover pet accidents, a bold move that may break the legal premise that life insurance plans are designed solely for humans.

South Korean civil law states that a person who owns a pet should compensate for all damages caused by the pet, defining pets as subject to management of a person, while criminal law deems abuse of other people’s pets as criminal damage.

While the Animal Insurance Act includes a provision that penalises animal abuse, pets have still been considered as property within the scope of criminal law.

Insurance companies, therefore, have been selling general insurance plans to cover animals and pets.

Pet insurance is growing in the country. According to the General Insurance Association of Korea, the pet insurance market grew from KRW300m ($257,000) in 2013 to KRW1.28bn in 2018, up by more than 300%.


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