A ban that jails soldiers for up to one
year for engaging in homosexual acts or sexual harassment is under
review by South Korea's Constitutional Court, reports AFP.
At stake is the constitutionality of
banning gay service members in a country where serving in the
military is a requirement.
South Korea's defense ministry said it
has asked the Constitutional Court to uphold the gay ban, a ministry
spokesman said last week.
“The military is a unique
characteristics,” a military spokesman told AFP. “It has to
maintain good combat capability. It requires a sound group life. It
works for the public interest rather than personal happiness.”
At its last review in 2002, the
Constitutional Court upheld the gay ban as legal.
Homosexuality in South Korea is not
illegal, and neither the South Korean Constitution nor the Civil
Penal Code specifically address it. The Military Penal Code,
however, makes being gay a crime, and the repercussions of its
punishment may last a lifetime.
Soldiers found guilty of being gay are
locked up for up to one year and given a dishonorable discharge.
South Korea's military draft makes
service mandatory for all male citizens, with no conscientious
objector option. And in a country where service records are commonly
used to determine employment and being gay is considered “abnormal”,
a military dishonorable discharge for being gay carries a heavy
The Military Penal Code further
punishes gays by lumping together consensual and non-consensual gay
sex as “sexual harassment.”
Homosexuality is taboo in the Republic
of Korea, where South Koreans treasure sacrifice over personal
liberties. Gay nightlife does exist in large cities, but gay men and
lesbian women remain mostly invisible.
A local military court in August asked
the Constitutional Court to review the military's gay ban, saying the
code was ambiguous with regards to “whether it covers sex by mutual
agreement, or harassment between males, between females or between a
male and female.”