South Korea's First Trans Soldier Found Dead in Her Home at 23

Bryan Ke
·2 min read

Byun Hee-soo, South Korea’s first transgender soldier who was forcibly discharged from service over a year ago, has been found dead. Sudden death: The 23-year-old former South Korean soldier was found dead in her home on Wednesday at 5:49 p.m., according to Yonhap News.

  • After unsuccessful attempts to contact Byun since Feb. 28, her mental health counselor alerted the authorities.

  • Byun had been attending mental health counseling near her home in the neighborhood of Cheongju, the BBC reported.

  • According to her local mental health center, Byun had tried to commit suicide three months ago.

  • Authorities found no suicide note in her home. Investigators have yet to release details of her death.

Forcibly discharged: Byun was forcibly discharged from service in January 2020 after undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

  • Prior to her case, the South Korean Army had never used a panel to decide on ending a soldier’s service after undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

  • While there are no specific laws placed for her case, the Army ultimately decided that the surgery should be considered as a Level 3 physical disability.

  • Byun asked for reinstatement after her dismissal, but the Army denied her plea in July 2020.

  • She then challenged the military after filing an administrative suit in August 2020, arguing that her removal was unconstitutional.

  • The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) addressed the situation last December and said there were no legal grounds when the Army prohibited her from serving in the military.

  • Kim Borami, Byun’s attorney, told The Korea Herald that Byun's legal team asked the court for a chance to appeal in February 2021, but they have yet to receive an answer.

  • “Two weeks ago, I asked the court again for a date, and that’s all I’ve been doing for the past months, but no answer,” Kim said. “I really don’t know what’s taking so long. It’s been a painful time for Byun and me.”

Feature Image via Arirang News

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