South Korea’s first transgender soldier who underwent a gender reassignment surgery to become a woman has been thrown out of the army.
Sgt. Byun Hui-su, who had the operation in Thailand last year while on leave, had expressed hope of continuing to serve in the female corps before a military panel voted to throw her out today.
The army said in a statement that while it will make efforts to protect soldiers’ human rights and prevent discrimination, the surgery left Byun unable to continue to serve, a ruling that Byun Hui-su had vowed to “fight.”
Speaking at a press conference at the Center for Military Human Right Korea on Wednesday, Sgt. Byun Hui-su said: “I will continue to fight until the day I can remain to serve in the army,” she said. “I’ll challenge the decision until the end, to the Supreme Court.”
While describing her decision to transition in front of reporters, Hui-su’s broke down in tears saying she wanted to live her truth after years of distress and bouts of depression.
It was an extremely difficult decision to let my base know of my identity, but once I did, I felt much better,” she told reporters at a news conference in Seoul after the military announced its decision.
“I thought I would finish serving in the army and then go through the transition surgery and then reenter the army as a female soldier. But my depression got too severe.”
Reacting to the news of Sgt. Byun Hui-su being thrown out of the army, the Seoul-based Military Human Rights Centre accused the military of treating LGBT+ troops “as if they are criminals”.
“The staff sergeant is a young soldier who has the loyalty and service spirits for the country and the people that are second to none, and loves the military more than anyone,” the group’s head, Lim Tae-hoon, told a news conference in Seoul.
“We strongly urge the military should turn over a new leaf by deciding to let the officer continue service.”