[Photo] Korean rights groups condemn military’s plan to define same-sex sex acts as misconduct

Posted on : 2023-02-17 17:05 KST Modified on : 2023-02-17 17:05 KST
Activists criticized the inclusion of consensual sexual acts in private settings as grounds for disciplinary action in the military’s plans for updating the disciplinary code for soldiers
Activists with civic organizations advocating for LGBTQ rights hold a press conference on Feb. 7 outside the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul’s Yongsan District to condemn planned amendments to enforcement rules in the disciplinary action decree for Korean soldiers. (Kim Hye-yun/The Hankyoreh)
Activists with civic organizations advocating for LGBTQ rights hold a press conference on Feb. 7 outside the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul’s Yongsan District to condemn planned amendments to enforcement rules in the disciplinary action decree for Korean soldiers. (Kim Hye-yun/The Hankyoreh)

“I sense how grim things are in South Korean society in 2023 when we still have to keep repeating that homosexuality is not a sin, a crime or a mental illness.”

Human rights groups are calling for the withdrawal of planned amendments to enforcement regulations for soldiers’ disciplinary code, which they argue incite discrimination against LGBTQ people.

Groups including the Network for Support and Reporting of Military-Related LGBTQ Human Rights Violations and Discrimination, Rainbow Action Against Sexual Minority Discrimination, and Korean Lawyers for Public Interest and Human Rights issued their calls during a press conference held on the morning of Feb. 7 across the way from the MND public service center in Seoul’s Yongsan District.

The amendment of military discipline enforcement rules announced by the MND on Nov. 24 of last year includes “sexual acts between members of the same sex” in its “misconduct” category as grounds for disciplinary action and punishment.

The activists unanimously criticized the inclusion of consensual sexual acts in private settings as grounds for disciplinary action. Noting that disciplinary provisions already exist for acts of sexual assault, they called the new ones a clear and regressive example of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Activists with civic organizations advocating for LGBTQ rights hold a press conference on Feb. 7 outside the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul’s Yongsan District, where they chanted slogans including, “Discipline of sex acts between soldiers of the same sex is discrimination.” (Kim Hye-yun/The Hankyoreh)
Activists with civic organizations advocating for LGBTQ rights hold a press conference on Feb. 7 outside the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul’s Yongsan District, where they chanted slogans including, “Discipline of sex acts between soldiers of the same sex is discrimination.” (Kim Hye-yun/The Hankyoreh)

Attorney Park Han-hee explained that the problem lay in the MND “singling out same-sex intercourse as an example of ‘misconduct’ subject to disciplinary action.”

“If non-coercive heterosexual intercourse is not grounds for disciplinary action, why should they single out homosexual intercourse as ‘misconduct’ to be subject to disciplinary action?” she questioned.

Oh So-ri, secretary-general of the group Solidarity for LGBT Human Rights of Korea, said, “It doesn’t make any sense to begin with for them to be involving themselves with consensual sexual acts between individuals in private settings, but for them to specify that it is a matter involving ‘members of the same sex’ amounts to labeling LGBTQ soldiers as illegal persons.”

“Unless the MND is planning to bar LGBTQ soldiers from serving outright, they need to improve the military service environment so that it respects LGBTQ soldiers and protects their human rights,” Oh urged.

Activists with civic organizations advocating for LGBTQ rights submit a written opinion on planned amendments to enforcement rules in the disciplinary action decree for Korean soldiers to the Ministry of National Defense’s public service center on Feb. 7. (Kim Hye-yun/The Hankyoreh)
Activists with civic organizations advocating for LGBTQ rights submit a written opinion on planned amendments to enforcement rules in the disciplinary action decree for Korean soldiers to the Ministry of National Defense’s public service center on Feb. 7. (Kim Hye-yun/The Hankyoreh)

Lee Ho-rim, a member of Solidarity for LGBT Human Rights of Korea, said, “It is not going to ‘establish military discipline’ for them to maintain institutional discrimination against LGBTQ people while punishing consensual sexual acts that do not infringe on anyone’s rights to sexual self-determination and treating them as something to be punished.”

After the press conferences, members of the groups visited the MND public service center to submit an opinion on the matter. These photos were captured during the press conference and visit.

Activists with civic organizations advocating for LGBTQ rights hold a press conference on Feb. 7 outside the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul’s Yongsan District to condemn planned amendments to enforcement rules in the disciplinary action decree for Korean soldiers. Behind them, a banner for 1303, a number for soldiers to report instances of sexual assault and other misconduct and receive counseling, hangs on a fence. (Kim Hye-yun/The Hankyoreh)
Activists with civic organizations advocating for LGBTQ rights hold a press conference on Feb. 7 outside the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul’s Yongsan District to condemn planned amendments to enforcement rules in the disciplinary action decree for Korean soldiers. Behind them, a banner for 1303, a number for soldiers to report instances of sexual assault and other misconduct and receive counseling, hangs on a fence. (Kim Hye-yun/The Hankyoreh)

By Kim Hye-yun, staff reporter

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