South Korea military appealing ruling in transgender soldier's case

South Korea military appealing ruling in transgender soldier's case
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The South Korean military on Thursday said it plans to appeal a landmark ruling that found it illegally discharged the country's first known transgender soldier before she died earlier this year.

In January of 2020, the South Korean military announced it would be discharging staff sergeant Byun Hui-su for undergoing gender reassignment surgery while on active duty. 

South Korea forbids transgender people from joining the military, but there were no laws regarding an active soldier who transitions.

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Byun filed a lawsuit against the military in August of 2020. Her body was found dead in her home in March of 2021 from an apparent suicide and her family inherited the lawsuit.

Earlier in October, a South Korean court posthumously ruled that Byun had been illegally discriminated against by the military, The Korea Times reported.

"Since she applied for a sex change at a court and reported it to the military, she should have been considered as female when the military hospital checked whether she was fit to serve," the court said in its ruling.

Now the military has said that it plans to appeal the court's decision, The Associated Press reported. The South Korean Defense Ministry said that while it respects the court's decision earlier this month, it would still allow the army to appeal the ruling. Per South Korean laws, the filing must be approved by the Justice Ministry.

When reached for comment by the AP, the Justice Ministry said it would make a decision on the appeal soon after reviewing legal issues and the aspects surrounding the case.

Cho Kyu-suk, an activist with the Center for Military Human Rights Korea, told the AP, "The government may appeal, but our position is that they must not do so because that’s the attitude the government must have in the democratic society."