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Secrets and crimes: Gay South Korean soldiers trapped in legal bind

24 6 0
19.04.2019

By Claire Lee

PRODUCTIVE and driven, he was a model army officer, but he had a secret: he was in a gay sexual relationship with a fellow soldier — a crime under South Korea’s military law.

He kept his sexuality hidden from everyone, including friends and family, only meeting his lover off-base and after work.

Same-sex acts are legal for South Korean civilians, although homosexual people live largely under the radar as it remains a conservative society, influenced by evangelical Christianity.

But the South Korean military classes openly gay men in its ranks as having “special needs” and campaigners say it actively pursues soldiers who have consensual same-sex intercourse with each other.

“I worked very hard as an officer, but none of that mattered when I became a suspect,” the 27-year-old, who asked for anonymity, told AFP.

“There were days when I just wanted to die,” he added, explaining that he was caught after authorities discovered his messages on his partner’s phone.

SEE ALSO: How queer-friendly texts could fight homophobia in schools

He faced a criminal conviction and a possible forced outing to his parents, whom he had hoped would never find out the truth about his homosexuality, describing them as “conservative, devout Christians”.

South Korea has a conscript army to defend itself against the nuclear-armed North, with all able-bodied male citizens obliged to serve for nearly two........

© Asian Correspondent