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Forcible discharge of transgender sergeant justifiable: military


An appeal by a former Korean sergeant, who was forcibly discharged from the military after sex reassignment surgery, to revoke the decision to has been denied, the Army said Friday. 

Byun Hee-soo, 22, was discharged from the military on Jan. 22 after undergoing sex reassignment surgery while enlisted, despite her wish to continue service as a female officer.

What she has done “falls into reasons deemed unfit” for military service in accordance with the current law, the Army said.

She filed an appeal with a committee in the Army in February seeking to cancel the decision, saying it is unfair that she has been forcibly discharged based on her gender.

Headed by a colonel, the committee, which is composed of external figures including a judge, convened a meeting Monday to review whether the sergeant being discharged was legitimate.

“The decision (to discharge the soldier from the military) was made legitimately in accordance with the medical examination standards and discharge procedures stipulated in the current Military Personnel Management Act and no ilegality was found with the decision,” the Army said in a statement Friday.

Byun is to file suit against the Army, asking the court to invalidate the decision.

Byun, a tank driver in a unit in Gyeonggi Province, underwent sex reassignment surgery in December in Thailand after gaining approval from the unit. She was the first active-duty officer to have sex reassignment surgery while in service. 

Currently, there are no rules concerning those who enlist in the military as men and subsequently undergo gender reassignment surgery after being conscripted.

Under the Defense Ministry’s ordinance, active servicemen who suffer considerable mental or physical damage are subject to a review of their suitability for given positions. 

Following a medical examination, the transgender sergeant received a grade 3 on a scale of 1 to 11 on mental and physical disabilities, where 11 would be the best score, due to the removal of the genitals.

Under Korea’s regulations on military recruitment, transgender people are considered mentally disabled, labeled with “gender identity disorder” and declared unfit for military service. 

By Ock Hyun-ju (