South Koreans are opening up about the ongoing mistreatment of gay men in the military.
In 2017, we shared with you that leaders within the South Korean military were openly hunting gay men through use of gay dating apps and hostile investigations. 22-32 men were then placed in jail for times between six months and two years.
Despite homosexuality being legal in the country, the military’s official code bans homosexual activity under Article 92-6 “to keep the military community sound.” But unfortunately, South Korea still has a mandatory two year draft for all male citizens (because North Korea is still a thing).
While in the worst of ideals, that means gay and bisexual men have to hold off from having sex with other military members while enlisted. But, military personnel have been actively hunting gay men.
Now, one brave soldier has come forward to update us on the situation.
According to AFP or Agence France-Presse, one anonymous soldier is under the military’s eye after he started dating a fellow soldier. The two would only meet off-base and after work, because they feared the repercussion of their relationship being found out.
“I worked very hard as an officer, but none of that mattered when I became a suspect,” the 27-year-old, who asked for anonymity, told AFP.
“There were days when I just wanted to die,” he added, explaining that he was caught after authorities discovered his messages on his partner’s phone.
Eventually, the anonymous commenter was caught, like 22-32 of his peers during 2017, but he got off lucky. Military personnel didn’t charge him until his last month of service, so his case was transferred to a civilian court. He was then later acquitted.
But, unfortunately, military prosecutors have now appealed the case and the man is sitting in legal limbo as he awaits the next hearing.
“It is as if my entire existence was being denied,” says the man.
“I should never have been charged … in the first place,” he adds.
In addition to this man, three navy officers are currently under investigation for violating clause 92.6. One of these men was revealed to be gay by a military counselor who reported him.
“The fact that a military therapist disclosed the soldier’s sexual orientation without consent says a lot about human rights in South Korea’s military,” said Lim Tae-hoon of the Military Human Rights Center for Korea (MHRCK).
Military authorities continue to defend the clause by saying it helps preserve military discipline. That said, consensual heterosexual sex is not a crime in the South Korean military. Only homosexual sex. Though, the military is primarily male.
“The ban needs to remain in place as it is required to maintain a sound and wholesome lifestyle and discipline in the military, which is a communal institution,” a defense ministry official told AFP.
Currently, 12 of the men punished in 2017 for having homosexual sex have challenged article 92.6 in the country’s Constitutional Court.
Many international organizations have also condemned the law. The Human Rights Watch released a message about article 92.6 last month saying that the law “violates internationally protected rights including the rights to privacy, against arbitrary detention, and to non-discrimination and equality.”