Korean Army Discharges Transgender Soldier
Korean Army Discharges Transgender Soldier
  • Reporter Lee Mi-yeon
  • 승인 2020.02.13 19:17
  • 댓글 0
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The Korean Army said it decided not to allow a noncommissioned officer (NCO) who underwent gender reassignment surgery to continue to serve in the military as a female soldier. The decision was made in a military committee meeting that looked into the case of Byun Hee-soo, who had the surgery late last year and expressed a desire to keep serving in the military.
The NCO who served as a staff sergeant in a unit located in northern Gyeonggi received gender reassignment surgery in Thailand during official leave in November last year. The NCO’s unit said it detected that the soldier was struggling with gender identity around July and then filed for leave, but it did not find out about the surgery until the NCO visited a military hospital in December, where a medical officer diagnosed the officer as having gender dysphoria, which is a class 3 disorder that can warrant discharge from the military.
After the unit learned about the surgery, it recommended that the NCO resign prematurely from service. The law governing the status of persons in the military - the Military Personnel Management Act - stipulates that deliberate damage done to one’s body can also warrant discharge.
The NCO, however, refused an early discharge, filing to complete the remaining year of a three-year service as a noncommissioned officer in the military in a female brigade. 
Currently, no specific regulations exist on how to handle cases of soldiers who have had gender reassignment operations while in service. South Korea has no transgender soldiers, and the decision on the unprecedented case is expected to have a ripple effect on the overall rights of transgender South Koreans.
Following the decision, Byun came out in public and held an emotional press conference before TV cameras, pleading for a chance to continue to serve regardless of gender identity. “I am well aware that the military is not yet ready to accept transgender soldiers. If the military properly assigns me based upon my unique situation, however, it could create positive effects for the military as a whole,” Byun said. “I want to set a great precedent. Please allow me a chance. I am a soldier of the Republic of Korea.”
ng in the opposite direction.