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Amnesty International is urging South Korea to decriminalize consensual gay sex in the military following the release of their report titled, “Serving in silence: LGBTI people in South Korea’s military.” 

In South Korea, homosexuality is legal for civilians. However, having “anal sex and other indecent acts” with another military personnel is a crime under Article 92-6 of the Military Criminal Act and is punishable by up to two years in prison.   

Researchers who conducted 21 in-depth interviews among former, current, and future LGBTQ soldiers at the time of the study found that the aforementioned South Korean military code has resulted in “violence, discrimination and stigmatization against gay soldiers.” For instance, one of the interviewees called “U” witnessed the sexual abuse of a fellow soldier. Naturally, the victim wanted to report his abuser (who also happened to be his superior) and thereby enlisted U’s help but the superior heard about the imminent report and thus began threatening U. Worse, U was “subjected to physical violence and humiliation for three hours, which included being forced to have oral and anal sex with the original victim while the senior soldier made taunting remarks, such as: “Don’t you want to have sex with a woman-like man?” You may read U’s full story here including that of many others as well.

Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s East Asia Research Director, called for South Korea’s military to “stop treating LGBTI people as the enemy.” She also explained that outlawing same-sex sexual activity is “devastating for the lives of so many LGBTI soldiers and has repercussions in the broader society.” Lastly, she added, “It is long overdue for the military to acknowledge that a person’s sexual orientation is totally irrelevant to their ability to serve.”

In South Korea, a minimum of 21-month military service is mandatory for male citizens between the ages of 18 and 28. Their society is said to be highly conservative and a study conducted by Gallup Korea in 2017 showed that only 34% of South Koreans are for same-sex marriage as opposed to 58% who are against.