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South Korea’s First Trans Soldier Who Was Ousted From Military Found Dead

by : Julia Banim on : 04 Mar 2021 09:33
South KoreaYonhap/YouTube/Shutterstock

South Korea’s first transgender soldier, who was ousted from the military, has been discovered dead at her home in the central city of Cheongju.

Byun Hee-soo, 23, who was forced out of the military after undergoing gender reassignment surgery, was found dead on Wednesday, March 3, by members of the emergency services.

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Her body was discovered after her mental health counsellor alerted the police to inform them that she had not been reachable since February 28. A cause of death has not been given at the time of writing.

Byun was dismissed by the military in January 2020 after having served as a staff sergeant, as per Yonhap News Agency.

Her dismissal came shortly after she had undergone gender reassignment surgery. The defence ministry had reportedly classified her loss of male genitalia as a physical disability under the military law.

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In July 2020, the military rejected Byun’s petition for reinstatement. She went on to file an administrative suit against their decision in July, arguing her dismissal had been unconstitutional. The first hearing had been due to take place next month.

In December, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) stated that the army’s decision not to allow Byun to continue her service in the military as a female soldier had no legal grounds.

The opinion given by the NHRCK came after the Center for Military Human Rights Korea filed a petition alleging that Byun’s forced military discharge was an example of discrimination against transgender people.

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Byun’s case drew widespread interest due to her being the very first South Korean active-duty soldier to have gender reassignment surgery while still in service.

During a press briefing, deputy ministry spokesperson Col. Moon Hong-sik said:

We express condolences over the regrettable death of the late former staff sergeant Byun Hee-soo.

When asked to comment on a possible review of transgender people serving as soldiers in the military, Moon stated that the ministry had not yet detailed discussions on this issue.

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Byun had previously spoken at a press conference, pleading that she be allowed to continue serving in the military, stating, ‘I’m a soldier of the Republic of Korea.’

Our thoughts are with the loved ones of Byun Hee-soo at this difficult time.

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence contact Mindline Trans+ on 0300 330 5468. The line is open 8pm–midnight Mondays and Fridays and is run by trans volunteers.

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: News, gender, LGBTQ+, military, Now, South Korea

Credits

Yonhap News Agency
  1. Yonhap News Agency

    (LEAD) Forcibly discharged transgender soldier found dead at home