South Korea’s defence ministry issued a statement addressing the issue of the treatment of gay soldiers in the army.

“The military will treat homosexual soldiers the same as heterosexual ones,” the ministry said in a written statement distributed to news gathering groups.

The announcement comes after a series of unfair dismissal and bullying incidents have been reported in South Korean press, becoming the subject of much speculation and gossip. The Seoul based news agency Yonhap requested an official policy statement from the South Korean army, effectively brining the debate out into the open.

Though the Ministry statement implies more grudging tolerance than outright and welcome acceptance, it has been hailed by the Korean gay community as a significant step in the right direction. South Korea’s traditional patriarchal social values, clearly represented by the army are not noted for their liberalism or expansiveness.

The statement will make particularly welcome reading to young men anxious about their compulsory military service – 24 to 28 months of it, depending on the military branch involved.