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South Korea to decide whether trans soldier will be allowed to serve her country in landmark ruling

Patrick Kelleher January 17, 2020
South Korea to decide whether trans soldier will be allowed to serve in landmark ruling

South Korea military (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)

South Korea will decide in the coming days if a transgender soldier who transitioned last year will be allowed to continue serving.

Transgender people are currently not allowed to sign up to serve in the South Korean military, but a loophole means that there is no regulation around current soldiers who transition. The trans woman underwent gender confirmation surgery in Thailand last year while on leave.

A committee has been tasked with deciding whether the woman will be allowed to continue serving or if she will be forcibly discharged from the military, CNN reports. The decision is expected to set a new precedent for transgender soldiers.

Military in South Korea urged to allow trans woman to continue serving by human rights group.

The trans woman – who has not been named and is currently spending time in a military run hospital – was not drafted into the army but signed up of her own accord. Under South Korean law, all able-bodied young men aged between 18 and 35 must serve at least 21 months in the military. Those who try to get out of serving in the military can face a prison sentence.

The Centre for Military Human Rights Korea (CMHRK) said that the trans soldier is a tank officer and said she had undergone hormone treatment before she had gender confirmation surgery last year.

We strongly urge the South Korean military not to discharge this officer so that she can continue to serve as a female officer.

“It is now time for the South Korean military to set up guidelines and regulations about transgender people,” Kim Hyung-nam, the director of CMHRK, said.

“We strongly urge the South Korean military not to discharge this officer so that she can continue to serve as a female officer.”

Gay people also face penalties in the country’s military.

The South Korean military is already a hostile place for LGBT+ people. Sexual orientation is not considered a valid reason to be exempt from serving, and members of the military who have gay sex can face up to two years in prison.

LGBT+ rights in South Korea generally lag behind other countries. There is no legal recognition of same-sex relationships, and while transgender people are allowed to legally transition, they can only do so when they turn 20.

The news comes after Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people in the US military came into force last year. The president first announced the measure on Twitter in 2017. The discriminatory law subsequently faced a number of failed legal challenges.

 

More: military, South Korea

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