South Korean court orders posthumous reinstatement of trans soldier

Seoul, Oct 7 (EFE) .- A South Korean court ordered Thursday the posthumous reinstatement of a transgender soldier’s military position after she was fired following a sex change operation and committed suicide in March because of her termination.

The Daejeon District Court ruled in favor of Sergeant Byun Hee-soo, arguing military commanders should have considered the soldier a woman when reviewing her condition to fulfill military service after the sex change operation.

“Since she requested a sex change in court and reported it to the army, she should have been considered a woman when the military hospital evaluated whether she was fit to serve,” read the ruling, collected by local news agency Yonhap.

Byun was expelled from the military in January 2020 after military doctors deemed her decision to undergo gender reassignment surgery a “mental handicap” that prevented her from continuing in her position.

Today’s ruling holds that the decision on her suitability for the post should have been made on the basis of several factors, without the surgery being a valid reason.

The sergeant, who held a position as a tank driver, underwent the operation with her unit’s approval in December 2019 in Thailand during a leave of absence, about two years after voluntarily enlisting in the army.

A month after her expulsion, she filed an appeal and asked to be allowed to continue serving as a woman, but she was rejected.

In August last year, she filed an administrative complaint against the decision before the court, alleging her dismissal was unconstitutional.

The South Korean National Human Rights Commission, an independent public body whose mission is to promote basic rights, considered the army’s decision lacked a legal basis.

Byun, who had become a symbol of the struggle for LGTBI rights in South Korea as the country’s first transsexual military woman, was found dead at her home in Cheongju, about 150 kilometers south of Seoul, in March. She was 22.

South Korean military legislation prevents transsexual people from being recruited, considering they suffer a “mental disability” due to what it calls a “gender identity disorder.”

However, there is no legislation concerning the possibility that an active duty military man decides to change sex.

Byun’s death sparked a wave of criticism in South Korea and calls to reform its military law.

The army said in a statement released after the ruling that it “respects” the court’s ruling and has yet to decide whether to appeal.

“We will review the comments of the sentence and we will carry out a comprehensive review in future decisions,” the text published on Yonhap read. EFE


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