South Korean Human Rights Monitor

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Suicide of Gay Soldier Brings to Surface Military’s Indifference to Sexual Minorities

Soo Yon Suh January 18, 2013

On the 16th, it was reported that a gay soldier in the Korean military committed suicide. It was revealed that Soldier Lee (alias) was struggling with his sexual identity and reached out multiple times to the Ministry of Defense and to his superiors but no appropriate assistance was provided.

Males in South Korea must complete a 21~24 month mandatory military service. As a result of the Korean War and the current state of war South Korea is in with North Korea, the Republic of Korea Armed Forces are maintained.

Lack of interest in mental health, harassment and hazing incidents of soldiers have caused a growing number of problems in the military in recent years. There were multiple cases where soldiers committed violence and or suicide.

The recent case is causing a stir as the military authorities received multiple requests from Lee asking for help. There were reports of suicide attempts of Lee when he was on leave. Despite clear signs and direct requests from Lee for help, authorities simply brushed off the situation.

Executive director of Military Human Rights Korea, a human rights NGO, Lim Tae Hoon stated that there is a protocol to respond to suicide attempts by soldiers, however as shown with this case the system is not working.

It was also found that there is a system set where soldiers that displays possibility of self harm or suicide attempts that they are to receive psychological counseling or at the most be admitted into the Army hospital.

The unfortunate events have revealed another portion of insensitivity to sexual minorities and those suffering from mental disorders.

On another note, as I was researching this case earlier in the week I was able to find multiple articles on the internet released by major newspapers. Interestingly, a day later all the internet news articles disappeared being unable to be searched on search engines. Almost made it seem like the incident never happened. Luckily, I was able to take notes after reading the articles when it was available hence writing this article. It was shocking how controlled media can be in South Korea.

About Author

Soo Yon Suh

Soo is currently a program coordinator at the Korea Human Rights Foundation (KHRF) managing the Asia Democracy Network and HRM. She has been with KRHF since 2010 starting as a research fellow managing and developing the HRM project. Soo grew up in Chicago, Illinois, received her Bachelor's in Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago and her Master's in Korean for Professionals (NSEP Korean Language Flagship) from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. View all posts by Soo Yon Suh →

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