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(LEAD) Justice ministry orders military to drop its plan to appeal against transgender soldier ruling

All News 20:56 October 22, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 4-6, 2nd photo)

SEOUL, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) -- The justice ministry on Friday ordered the military to drop its plan to challenge a court ruling that said it was unjust for the military to discharge a transgender soldier over her gender reassignment surgery.

Justice Minister Park Beom-kye accepted a recommendation from an advising committee on administrative suits which reviewed the case of Byun Hee-soo.

"The court's ruling is not about allowing transgender people to serve in the military but is saying the military's compulsorily discharge order against the deceased, who was a woman at that time, for reasons such as the loss of the penis and testicular defects, is unlawful based on related laws," the ministry said.

Following the justice ministry's decision, a military official said the Army will end its litigation and take follow-up measures regarding the case.

Its deadline for filing an appeal is next Tuesday.

The official added the military is likely to accelerate its research on the possibility of military service by transgender people with the latest decision.

This file photo shows Byun Hee-soo, a noncommissioned officer, at a press conference in Seoul on Jan. 22, 2020, after the Army's discharge review committee decided to discharge her by force, as the officer underwent gender transition surgery. (Yonhap)

Earlier this month, the Daejeon District Court ruled it was unfair for the military to discharge Byun, formerly a staff sergeant in her 20s, over her gender reassignment surgery in 2019.

Byun underwent the surgery in Thailand in 2019, two years after voluntarily enlisting, and expressed her desire to keep serving in the military as a female soldier. But the Army decided to compulsorily discharge her in January last year.

She later filed a suit over its decision to discharge her against her will but was found dead in an apparent suicide in March this year.

The defense ministry previously said it respects the court ruling but believes there is a need for a higher court to review the case and it would seek an appeal.

It then requested the justice ministry make a judgment on its plan, as the ministry is responsible for overseeing suits pursued by the state under a law.

This photo taken Oct. 19, 2021, shows human rights activists holding a press conference at the defense ministry demanding the ministry to drop its plan to challenge a court ruling on a transgender soldier. (Yonhap)


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