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In South Korea, Gay Soldiers Can Serve. But They Might Be Prosecuted.


In recent years, gays have become more visible in the country. But conservative Christian groups have also escalated demonstrations against homosexuality in major cities, often calling gay soldiers a threat to military readiness.

Those groups helped to scuttle attempts in Parliament to pass an anti-discrimination law, urged on South Korea by the United Nations, that would give sexual minorities the same protections that other minority groups have.

Amnesty International’s report describes in vivid detail how antigay attitudes have translated into physical and sexual abuse within the military.

One former soldier told the rights group he had been forced to have oral and anal sex with another gay soldier, as a superior taunted, “Don’t you want to have sex with a womanlike man?” Others have been sexually abused for “not being masculine enough,” walking in an “effeminate” way or having a high-pitched voice, according to the report.

Amnesty said it interviewed 21 former, current and future soldiers for the report, most of whom used pseudonyms, including Mr. Kim. One of them, Jeram Yunghun Kang, agreed to the use of his full name in an interview with The New York Times.

Mr. Kang, who joined the army in 2008, said other soldiers in his unit harassed him by groping him, kissing his neck and pulling down his underwear. After he confided to an officer that he was gay and asked for help, his battalion commander outed him in front of his entire unit, asking him, “Who did you seduce last night?”

From that day on, Mr. Kang said, he had to wear a “smiley face” pin on his chest, marking him as a “soldier of special interest.”


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