On October 7, the Daejeon District Court ruled that the Korean Army was unfair in forcefully discharging a transgender soldier for having undergone gender reassignment surgery. The Army’s decision caused her to die by suicide in March of this year.
The late Ssg. Byun Hee Soo had gender reassignment surgery while on leave in 2019, nearly two years after she voluntarily enlisted in the military. She became the first Korean soldier to undergo the surgery.
The Army deemed her loss of genitalia as a physical disability under military law, and she was forcefully discharged in January 2020. She appealed the decision the following month and asked that she continue serving in the military as a female soldier. However, her appeal was rejected.
Following the rejection, she filed an administrative suit against the decision in court and claimed that the dismissal was unconstitutional.
She was found dead at her home in Cheongju, Korea, eight months before the Daejeon District Court’s ruling was announced. The court stated that the Army should have considered her a woman when deciding whether she was fit for military service after her surgery.
Since she applied for a sex change at a court and reported it to the military, she should have been considered as female when the military hospital checked whether she was fit to serve.
— Daejeon District Court ruling
They ordered that the Army cancel their forceful discharge of the late Byun Hee Soo.
The Army announced that they “respect” the court’s decision but have yet to decide whether they will appeal it. In an official statement, they said, “We will check the sentencing remarks and conduct a comprehensive review on future actions.”