constitutional combat

To Fight to Let South Korea’s Gay Soldiers Be Sexually Active

The South Korean military’s sodomy ban might be headed the way of America’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: the kill zone.

Clause No. 92 in Korea’s military penal code, says soldiers engaged in “sodomy or other acts of molestation” will receive jail sentences up to a year. The regulation — which uses the word “gyegan,” or “chicken sex,” to refer to sodomy, and does not stipulate whether “molestation” refers only to forced acts — has been on the books since 1962. But a new effort to remove it is underway, with the National Human Rights Commission petitioning to have the law overturned by the Constitutional Court, which is hearing the case.

In a review of the law, the NHRC “determined that homosexuality does not directly affect military combat power, moral fiber and unity. Criminal punishment according to the penal code infringes on their rights to equality and runs counter to the trend of the times,” according to a written conclusion. “We found that there are no cases overseas in which soldiers were punished for homosexuality. Militaries in Canada, Australia and Israel allow homosexuals to join them even after they came out of the closet.”

(In South Korea, all men are required to serve, but new enlistees undergo psychological profiles, including questions about their sexual orientation. Gay men are listed as having a “personality disorder” and disqualified from service. They may even be institutionalized.)

But repealing the law — of course — has its critics. Or rather, its fearmongers.

Military officials expressed displeasure over the NHRC decision. “Korea currently runs a draft system. In the hierarchical military society, one with a lower rank could be forced to consent to homosexuality. Taking into consideration Korean customs and rules, the clause should be kept alive,” said an official on condition of anonymity.

So what does this law’s historical record look like?

According to the commission data, a total of 176 cases of homosexuality in the military, handled in accord with the clause in question, were registered from 2004-2007. Of them, only four cases took place among consenting individuals.

So really, isn’t this a matter of cracking down on rape, not consensual gay sex acts? Surely forced sexual acts are already explicitly prohibited by military and legal code. So that should about cover things. [Korea Herald]