Authorities in Seoul, South Korea, said they were investigating the death of Byron Hee-su, 23, whose body was found on Wednesday at her home in the city of Cheongju by emergency responders.
Hee-su was a transgender woman who was expelled by the South Korean military last year.
via The New York Times:
Ms. Byeon, who had been a staff sergeant in an army tank unit, was discharged from the military in January 2020 following her surgery. She had wanted to continue her service in the army, but a military panel declared her unfit to serve. She became the first active-duty soldier in South Korea to be referred to such a panel.
Since her dismissal, Ms. Byeon had campaigned vigorously to be reinstated, arguing that there was no reason she could not fulfill her duties.
“I want to show that I can be an excellent soldier who helps defend this country regardless of my sexual identity,” Ms. Byeon said tearfully at a news conference following her discharge. “Please give me that chance.”
Ms. Byeon’s case laid bare the plight that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people often face in South Korea’s socially conservative society, especially in its armed forces. Gay and other soldiers have long complained of discrimination and abuse. Gay men and lesbians are not barred from service, but they have been subjected to investigations by military officials. Transgender people, however, are barred from joining the armed forces, since they are categorized by the military as having mental and physical “disorders.”
In a ruling last year, a district court formally recognized Ms. Byeon as female. After her initial petition to be reinstated was rejected by the military, Ms. Byeon sued the military, arguing that her discharge had been unlawful. The first hearing in the case had been scheduled to take place in a military court next month.
The military expressed its condolences over her death but declined to make any further comments.