were discharged from South Korea's military in 2005 for
homosexuality, the army said Friday in Seoul, its first-ever
disclosure of such statistics. According to South
Korean military regulations, gay men aren't allowed to
serve. The exact number of those discharged was
reported by local media, and the army confirmed it when
asked. It said it hasn't tracked or released such
statistics in the past.
All South Korean men are required to serve as
conscripts, and officers consult fellow soldiers and
seek diagnoses from doctors to determine whether
someone is trying to evade service by claiming he is gay.
Gay rights groups, however, say that this can lead to
demeaning practices and exclude those who want to
serve their country.
Hwang Jang-kwon, an official at Solidarity for
Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Human Rights of
Korea, said a gay soldier sought the group's help
earlier this month after being forced to provide
photographic evidence that he was involved in
homosexual relations. He said he was also forced to
take an HIV test without his consent. The soldier wanted
to finish his service, but his privacy wasn't protected by
the military, and the group is now seeking to get him
an early discharge, Hwang said.
This week the Korea Sexual Violence Relief
Center also blasted discrimination against gays in the
army and called for changes to regulations barring
them from duty.
Homosexuality has only in recent years gained
some acceptance in South Korean society, with its
strict Confucian traditions and strong Roman Catholic
Church. The biggest current hit movie in the country,
King and the Clown, centers on a gay love
triangle involving a despotic king and two court jesters.