Serving in Silence – LGBTI people in South Korea’s Military
There is no law criminalizing same-sex sexual activity between civilians in South Korea; however, Article 92-6 of the Military Criminal Act punishes sexual activity between men with up to two years in prison. The military code does more than legislate against particular sexual acts; it institutionalizes discrimination, reinforces systematic disadvantages for gay, bisexual and transgender people and risks inciting or justifying violence against them inside the military and in the broader society.
This report demonstrates how soldiers experience discrimination, intimidation, violence and isolation as the direct or indirect result of the criminalization of sex between men in the military. It examines how diversity based on sexual orientation and gender identity is discouraged in the military, bringing difficulties to those who do not conform to gender norms. By criminalizing sex between men in the military, the South Korean government fails to uphold protect a range of human rights obligations, including the rights to privacy, to freedom of expression and assembly, to thought, conscience and religion and to equality and non-discrimination.
Decriminalization would not end discrimination and abuse, but repealing Article 92-6 is a crucial first step towards respecting, protecting and fulfilling the human rights of LGBTI people in the South Korean military and beyond.