Ms Byun who is a transgender soldier in South Korea says she will sue the army after it dismissed her for violating regulations following her sex change. This she claims is wrongful termination.
Byun Hui-soo, 22, joined the army as a man but had gender reassignment surgery last year after suffering from gender dysphoria and mental health issues. It is compulsory for all able bodied men to join the military for two years and serve the country.
She accused the military of “deep-rooted intolerance” of sexual minorities. South Korea is among the countries that remains conservative on matters of sexual identity.
Ms Byun’s case has led to debate over the treatment of transgender soldiers as well as those from the wider LGBTQ community.
Making an appearance before the press that lasted over 45mins, Ms Byun who is also staff sergeant said she had wanted to stay in the army after her operation, which took place in Thailand in November.
South Korea dismissed Ms Byun Hui-soo from the army.
“I will continue to fight until the day I can remain to serve in the army. I’ll challenge the decision until the end, to the Supreme Court,” she said.
She had not planned on having gender reassignment surgery, she said, but was recommended to do so by doctors at a military hospital where she was sent after suffering mental health problems. They arose from gender dysphoria – defined as distress from the internal conflict between physical gender and gender identity.
What does Ms Byun have to say?
“It was an extremely difficult decision to let my base know of my identity, but once I did, I felt much better,” she said.
“I thought I would finish serving in the army and then go through the transition surgery and then re-enter the army as a female soldier. But my depression got too severe,” she added.
Ms Byun said she had not expected to be forced to leave the army. Her superior officers had visited her in hospital and had been discussing where she would be redeployed after her treatment, she said.
They had suggested she could become a role model for LGBT people in the armed forces, she said.
“Apart from my gender identity, I want to show everyone that I can also be one of the great soldiers who protect this country,” she said.
What does the Ministry of defense say about Ms Byun?
A defence ministry spokesman told AFP that the soldier had been undergoing tests at a military hospital, which classified the loss of male genitals as a mental or physical handicap. That prompted a panel review of her service. The military does not have regulations governing the service of transgender soldiers.
The military statement added that it was determined to avoid “unfair discrimination and treatment”.
It still remains to be seen if Ms. Byun will be reinstated by the government. However, due to the existence of the anti-LGBT campaigners who have called for even worse things done to the soldier, the military may not be reinstated.
Author: Moses Echodu
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