SEOUL, South Korea — A transgender girl who was expelled by the South Korean army final yr after her gender-reassignment surgical procedure has been discovered useless at her house south of Seoul, the police mentioned on Thursday.
The authorities mentioned they have been investigating the reason for dying of the girl, Byeon Hee-su, 23, whose physique was discovered on Wednesday at her house within the metropolis of Cheongju by emergency responders. They have been alerted after a neighborhood psychological well being heart that had been counseling her reported that it couldn’t contact her.
Ms. Byeon, who had been a employees sergeant in a military tank unit, was discharged from the army in January 2020 following her surgical procedure. She had wished to proceed her service within the military, however a army panel declared her unfit to serve. She turned the primary active-duty soldier in South Korea to be referred to such a panel as a result of she had had a sex-change operation.
Since her dismissal, Ms. Byeon had campaigned vigorously to be reinstated, arguing that there was no motive she couldn’t fulfill her duties.
“I need to present that I may be a wonderful soldier who helps defend this nation no matter my sexual identification,” Ms. Byeon mentioned tearfully at a information convention following her discharge. “Please give me that likelihood.”
Ms. Byeon’s case laid naked the plight that lesbians, homosexual males, bisexuals and transgender individuals usually face in South Korea’s socially conservative society, particularly in its armed forces. Homosexual and different troopers have lengthy complained of discrimination and abuse. Homosexual males and lesbians will not be barred from service, however they’ve been subjected to investigations by military officials. Transgender individuals, nevertheless, are barred from becoming a member of the armed forces, since they’re categorized by the army as having psychological and bodily “issues.”
In a ruling final yr, a district court docket formally acknowledged Ms. Byeon as feminine. After her preliminary petition to be reinstated was rejected by the army, Ms. Byeon sued the army, arguing that her discharge had been illegal. The primary listening to within the case had been scheduled to happen in a army court docket subsequent month.
The army expressed its condolences over her dying however declined to make any additional feedback.
Ms. Byeon’s dying introduced an outpouring on social media from transgender individuals, who thanked her for talking out for transgender rights within the face of the social stigma.
“I’m actually sorry that now we have failed to guard the life you’ve got so desperately wished,” Jang Hye-young, a lawmaker affiliated with the minority Justice Celebration, said in a put up on Twitter.
Efforts to undertake a complete anti-discrimination legislation to advertise the rights of girls and sexual and different minorities have been stymied for years in Parliament as highly effective conservative Christian church buildings have lobbied towards it, calling the conduct of L.G.B.T. individuals sinful.
Ms. Byeon joined the army in 2017. She underwent her operation in Thailand whereas on depart. She bumped into bother afterward, when a South Korean military-run hospital, the place she had checked in for post-surgery therapy, mentioned that she was disabled and may very well be discharged from the military due to the lack of male genitalia from the surgical procedure.
South Korea, which is technically at warfare with North Korea throughout one of many world’s most closely fortified borders, requires all able-bodied males to serve in its armed forces for about 20 months. Girls are exempt from conscription however might select to enlist.
Earlier than her dying, Ms. Byeon discovered vital worldwide backing for her trigger.
United Nations human rights officers mentioned in a letter to the South Korean authorities final July that her dismissal “would violate the proper to work and the prohibition of discrimination primarily based on gender identification below worldwide human rights legislation.”
The South Korean authorities defended the army’s determination, saying that to be able to enable transgender individuals to serve within the army, the nation must contemplate how it could have an effect on troops’ fight readiness towards North Korea. It additionally mentioned the nation needed to weigh the “results on personnel morale”
In December, South Korea’s Nationwide Human Rights Fee referred to as the military’s determination unfair and advisable that it reinstate Ms. Byeon.
Lim Tae-hoon, director of the Navy Human Rights Heart of Korea, which offered help for Ms. Byeon, mentioned after her dying, “We pray that Workers Sergeant Byeon Hee-su, a tank driver, will reside with like-minded individuals within the subsequent world the place there isn’t a discrimination and hatred.”