A South Korean court convicted a man Wednesday of raping a transgender woman, a landmark decision in a country that does not recognize homosexual rape, reports the AFP.

The 28-year-old man was sentenced to three years in prison but the court suspended his punishment for four years.

The transgender woman, 58, was raped last August when the man broke into her home in the southern city of Busan.

She is one of the more than 70,000 South Koreans estimated to have undergone the difficult sex-reassignment therapy, completing her transition in 1974.

The Republic of Korea remains a conservative country, where South Koreans treasure sacrifice over personal liberties. Being gay is not illegal, but carries a heavy social burden. Similarly, transsexuals often face difficult challenges.

In its decision, the court gave heavy weight to the idea that the victim was a woman because she had maintained regular sexual intercourse with her partner.

A 2006 South Korean Supreme Court decision upheld the right of transgender people to alter their gender on official documents.

The man has been ordered to do 120 hours of community service.