In the wake of
the recent announcement that South Korea plans to
ease or end its ban on gay soldiers, researchers say the
developments are surprising for a nation not known for
tolerance of gays and lesbians. The National Human
Rights Commission had recommended that the
military take steps to ensure the rights of its gay troops.
In April defense minister Yoon Kwang-ung
responded that his office would review the
recommendation "in a positive manner," saying that the
decision was in part a reaction to an increase in "public
calls on the issue."
In the past, gays
were discharged for "mental illness" and were
sometimes the target of harassment. "This is a culture that
does not have much of a tradition of discussing sexual
orientation openly," said Aaron Belkin, director of
the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the
Military at the University of California, Santa
Barbara. "But right now on this issue, what we're seeing
there is a more open political process than we enjoy
here in the United States." Belkin explained that
despite overwhelming evidence showing that gays can
serve openly in a military setting without undermining the
mission, the political process in the United States
has stalled, as opponents of gay rights work to thwart
open discussion of what the research shows.
dozen civic groups had convened a press conference to call
for greater government action to protect the rights of gays
in the military, according to the Korea Times.
The first phase of new regulations went into effect on
April 1. They restrict the use of personal information
about gay soldiers on military documents, end the
forced medical examinations of gay troops, and punish
perpetrators of sexuality-based physical or verbal abuse.
Analysts said the development is a promising
step in the evolution of rights for gays in
Asia. (The Advocate)