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Gay soldiers
booted from South Korean army

Gay soldiers
booted from South Korean army

Eight soldiers 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. (AP)

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