Unfair Dismissal of Transgender Soldiers

A South Korean soldier who committed suicide earlier this year after being discharged by his military unit following sex reassignment surgery, won a posthumous victory in court Thursday (7/10).

The court ruled that the country’s military should recognize the late transgender soldier as a woman and overturn her dismissal.

Byun Hui-su who ranks staff sergeant or enlisted at the level of non-commissioned officer, had previously reportedly applied to transfer to the military women’s corps following her sex reassignment surgery. However, the application was not only rejected but also accompanied by dismissal. The military considers the sex change operation to make Byun classified as disabled and unfit to carry out his duties.

Byun took his case to court, but later committed suicide before the case was completed in court.

The court said that since Byun’s gender change was legally recognized, the military should use the standards applied to women to determine her eligibility to serve.

South Korean Army Sergeant Byun Hui-su leaves the room after a press conference at the Korean Military Human Rights Center in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, January 22, 2020.

South Korean Army Sergeant Byun Hui-su leaves the room after a press conference at the Korean Military Human Rights Center in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, January 22, 2020.

Outside the courthouse, supporters and human rights activists greeted the court’s decision with cheers. They stated that justice that had been long overdue had finally materialized.

Following Byun’s victory, the question now arises whether the military will make policy changes regarding sexual minorities.

The military said in a statement that it respected the court’s decision, but had not yet decided whether to appeal. They also said they would conduct a comprehensive review before deciding on a course of action.

South Korea requires all able-bodied men to serve at least 21 months of military service. [ab/uh]

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