SEOUL (Reuters) – The South Korean military announced on Wednesday it will discharge a soldier who underwent gender reassignment surgery, in a landmark case that sparked a national debate about the treatment of transgender members of the armed forces.
The soldier, who holds the rank of staff sergeant and is stationed in Gyeonggi Province, north of Seoul, received the operation overseas last year while on leave, and had expressed hope of continuing to serve in the female corps.
The arm said in a statement that while it will make efforts to protect soldiers’ human rights and prevent discrimination, the surgery left the soldier unable to continue to serve.
One army official with knowledge of the deliberations told Reuters that there should be no reason for the military to deny the soldier if she reapplied to serve in the female corps after completing the legal process to formally become a woman.
A human rights organization had filed a petition with a national human rights watchdog urging the army to postpone its decision until after the soldier had completed the court process, but the army said that legal proceeding is irrelevant to its personnel decisions.
The case has triggered debate over the treatment of transgender troops and soldiers from the wider LBGT community in the country, which requires all able-bodied men to serve for around two years.
Reporting by Sangmi Cha and Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore