South Korea military to discharge country’s first known transgender soldier
South Korea’s first publicly known transgender soldier on Wednesday asked to be allowed to remain serving after the military said it would discharge her for undergoing gender reassignment surgery during active duty.
The person in question is staff sergeant Byun Hui-su, who said in a press conference that she would like the military to reconsider their decision and let her serve as a female soldier.
“Regardless of my sexual identity, I’d like to show everyone that I can become one of the great soldiers who protect this country,” Byun said. “Please give me that chance.”
The incident marks the first time an active-duty military member in the nation has been referred to a panel to decide whether to terminate their service due to a sex reassignment operation.
South Korea forbids transgender people from joining the military, but there are no specific laws about sexual reassignment surgery that occurs during the time spent in service.
Byun said she had sex reassignment surgery in Thailand in November after experiencing depression over her sexual identity for a long time. She said at the beginning of 2019 she had the top score in an official evaluation of tank driving skills within her battalion staff sergeants.
The army said in a statement that it concluded the soldier’s operation could be considered a reason for discharge, according to AP.
Lim Tae-hoon, a Korean rights activist, said he will fight for Byun and others in order to transform the military to become more accepting.
Lim is the leader of the Seoul-based Center for Military Human Rights and referenced the army’s decision as a “savage” one.
“I can’t resist feeling wretched at the military’s vulgar mindset as they determined that the lack of a male genital is a physical disability,” Lim said.
The National Human Rights Commission said on Tuesday that referring Byun to the military panel is an act of discrimination over sexual identity and affects the soldier’s human rights.