South Korean Court Overturns Conviction of Soldiers who had Homosexual Relations

The Supreme Court in South Korea overturned on Thursday a 2019 military court conviction of two soldiers sentenced to suspended prison terms for a same-sex relationship.

The Supreme Court cited that the military court did not take into account whether the defendants’ relations, which took place in a personal space, were consensual, and thus excessively restricted their right to sexual self-determination.

“Punishing these incidents could… infringe upon the right to equality, the dignity and value as human and the right to pursue happiness as guaranteed by the Constitution,” the Supreme Court said.

In 2017, the two defendants were indicted for having same-sex intercourse 2016 while off duty outside their base. 

This act is punishable by up to two years in prison under the Military Criminal Act.

News reports said the Ministry of Defense would thoroughly review “the intent of the Supreme Court’s ruling,” as, in the past, South Korean authorities have defended the military code against same-sex relationships to maintain discipline.

Meanwhile, human rights groups have called on South Korea to decriminalize same-sex relationships for men in the military.

“This Supreme Court ruling will serve as a milestone in the long debate over this law,” the Center for Military Human Rights Korea said.

Homosexual activity is not illegal for South Korean civilians, but same-sex relationships for men in the military have been subject to criminal punishment.

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