[OP-ED] South Korean Military to Make Big Decision with First Transgender Soldier!
Jay Yim, Jan. 16, 2020, 5:20 p.m.
Recently, the South Korean military was given a big decision to make regarding their first soldier who has undergone gender reassignment surgery (male to female), which of course has sparked a national debate about the treatment of LGBT troops.
The soldier is a staff sergeant and is stationed in Gyeonggi Province. The sergeant got the operation done while overseas last year during her leave, and has expressed her hope to continue serving in the female division.
The soldier was not identified by the military. She is receiving post-surgery treatment at a military hospital.
As there are no regulations in Korea regarding transgender soldiers, the military has said that they will need to hold discussions as early as next week to decide the soldier's future.
According to a military official, the soldier's gender reassignment surgery will have to be seen as a "partial change in the body which we apply for those who were injured in accidents. We will likely discharge the soldier as there are different qualifications for men and women to meet in joining the military."
As I mentioned earlier, this story has sparked a debate on how South Korea treats transgender soldiers from the wider LBGT community, which requires all able-bodied men to serve for around two years.
Homosexuals are not banned from joining the South Korean army, but the sexual acts between two male soldiers is punishable by up to two years in prison.
There are even online portal sites that show a variety of reactions to the transgender soldier's case. Some are in support for her "courageous decision" while others are saying that she should be discharged and reapply to join the female corps if necessary.
Furthermore, human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have heavily criticized the country for their discrimination against LGBT troops. The Military Human Rights Centre based in Seoul has accused the army of treating LGBT soldiers "as if they are criminals" or people who have a disability.
In my opinion, there is no reason for the South Korea military to discharge the soldier and force her to reapply. I think they should allow her to continue to serve, and transfer her into the female corps. It's as simple as that. It never sat right with me knowing that the South Korean government punishes the LGBTQ community for doing what they believe is right, and feels good for them.
It's okay for them to be uncomfortable with homosexuals, transgenders, etc., because they are free to their own opinions. However, it is not right to punish them for it. It's their life to live, so we should let them be because in the end, they are human beings who deserve the same rights as everyone else.
I hope that the military will make a smart and well-thought-out decision for this transgender soldier. I wish her the best in her journey in serving her country, and for the life ahead of her as well.