South Korean authorities have charged fifteen individuals with covering up in alleged sexual abuse case of Air Force officer Byun Hee-soo, South Korea’s first transgender soldier.
An avoidable death: Byun, who was forced to quit the Air Force in 2020 following a gender reassignment surgery, took her own life earlier this year, reported the BBC.
- While it was reported that the 23-year-old Air Force master sergeant died of suicide in March, her actual cause of death has not been officially revealed.
- Byun’s death made local and international headlines and sparked public uproar in South Korea.
- Chief of Staff Gen Lee Seong-yong resigned in June after taking “heavy responsibility” for the incident.
- President Moon Jae-in accepted Lee’s resignation and ordered an investigation into the case after hundreds of thousands signed a petition calling for it.
Abuse cover-up: A recent investigation revealed that Byun had accused a male colleague of sexually assaulting her while they were being transported to base.
- When Byun reported the incident to her superior officers, she was forced into a private settlement with the colleague, the findings revealed.
- In June, a male master sergeant was arrested over the abuse allegation.
- In addition to those charged, dozens more Air Force officials will face disciplinary action due to their alleged cover-up efforts, which includes pressuring the victim to reach a private settlement with her abuser and the destruction or leaking of evidence.
- A local court later ruled that the military had unlawfully discriminated against Byun for being transgender.
On Byun’s dismissal: The Daejeon District Court also ruled that Byun had been wrongfully discharged in 2020 and that her dismissal should be annulled, Reuters reported.
- According to Yonhap, the military had previously judged that the removal of her male genitals “belongs to the Level 3 physical disability under the military laws.”
- Based on the local court’s new ruling, the classification of her surgery as a disability was highly discriminatory as there were “no mental or physical disability grounds for dismissal.”
- Advocates have welcomed the latest ruling, as it provides new hope for sexual minorities who have previously been unable to join the military.