Korea's First Known Transgender Soldier Wrongfully Discharged: Court

Staff Sergeant Byeon Hee-su was a tank driver who underwent gender reassignment surgery.

Korea's First Known Transgender Soldier Wrongfully Discharged: Court

Photo: Byeon Hee-su.  Credit: Military Human Rights Center.

Daejeon District Court 대전지방법원 held that the army wrongfully discharged Staff Sergeant Byeon Hee-su 변희수 하사, South Korea’s first known transgender soldier. Byeon, a transgender woman, was a tank driver for the 5th Armored Brigade 제5기갑여단 when she received a gender reassignment surgery in November 2019. The military deemed her disabled, and ordered her discharged in January 2020. After filing an administrative challenge against her discharge, Byeon committed suicide in March 2021. (See previous coverage, “Obituary: Pioneer of Transgender Rights.”)

In response to the court’s judgment on October 7, the Ministry of National Defense 국방부 said it would research and consider the policy of having transgender persons serve in the military. Under the direction of the Ministry of Justice 법무부, the Defense Ministry will not appeal the decision.

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