South Korea Convicts Soldier Over Gay Sex

"Sexual minorities... now must live in fear that they could be tracked down at any time and interrogated over their private lives."

A South Korean military court sentenced an army captain to a suspended prison term for having sex with a fellow soldier.

The captain’s lawyer Kim In-sook called the decision a “ridiculous ruling” as she and her client maintained that he was being punished for having consensual sex with his partner in a private space.

She added that the military penal code, which finds homosexual activity punishable by up to two years in prison, was unconstitutional and limits LGBT soldiers’ human rights. If the ruling stays, her client will be dishonorably discharged.

SEONGNAM, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 01:  South Korean army soldiers march during the 65th South Korea Armed Forces Day ceremony at Seongnam Military Airbase on October 1, 2013 in Seongnam, South Korea. More than 11 thousand troops participated in this year's ceremony while about 300 of the latest air and ground military equipment were showcased. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

The captain was arrested last month amid allegations that the Republic of Korea Armed Forces was hunting down and prosecuting gay servicemen. The army denied the claims, saying it was conducting an investigation into a leaked video showing two male soldiers having sex.

According to sources, the witch hunt was launched by army chief of staff General Jang Jun-kyu, who identified over 50 LGBT soldiers through a myriad of deceptive means, including threatening soldiers to out one another, checking cellphone records and even using dating apps to trick soldiers into outing themselves.

The Military Human Rights Center for Korea called on Gen. Jang to resign his position, saying at the time that he was “obviously incapable of leading the army” after treating “men who did their best to protect their homeland as if they were culprits.”

Following the unnamed captain’s arrest, Lim Tae-hoon, who leads the MHRCK, said the ruling “turned the clock of history backward.”

“Sexual minorities who are always living in danger of being outed by others now must live in fear that they could be tracked down at any time and interrogated over their private lives.”

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 07:  (L-R) Director Kim Jho Kwang-Soo kisses his partner Kim Seung-Hwan (David Kim) during their wedding as the first same-sex couple to get married in South Korea at the Cheonggyecheon on September 7, 2013 in Seoul, South Korea. The couple also plans to officially register their marriage after the ceremony, however South Korea does not recognize same-sex marriage or any other form of legal union for same-sex couples as of now.  (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Director Kim Jho Kwang-Soo kisses his partner Kim Seung-Hwan in first same-sex wedding in South Korea

Same-sex sexual activity is legal in South Korea, but same-sex marriage is still forbidden. The topic is so taboo that it’s rare to see gay couples in public, with only 18 percent of Koreans viewing homosexuality as acceptable.

This stigma is intensified in the military, where almost all able-bodied South Korean men are required to serve for at least two years. Gay men are not exempt from service, but are banned from engaging in sex with other soldiers, creating an environment in which LGBT servicemen are forced to deny their identities for fear of discrimination.

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