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South Korea Constitutional Court upholds law criminalizing homosexuality in military

The South Korean Constitutional Court [official website, in Korean] on Thursday upheld a law allowing the government to bring criminal charges against any member of the military who has sex with another individual of the same gender. The law, which allows for prosecution even in the absence of a complaining witness [Korea Herald report], has been part of the Korean military criminal code since 1962. Despite the controversy surrounding the law, relatively few individuals have been prosecuted. Between 2004 and 2007, 176 individuals faced charges, with three cases resulting in prison sentences. The court upheld the law in a 5-4 ruling [AFP report], citing a need to maintain discipline in the armed forces. Under the civil code of Korea, homosexuality is not illegal.

In October, the National Human Rights Commission of South Korea [official website, in Korean] issued a report stating that it found the law unconstitutional [JURIST report], and calling for the law to be repealed. In the US, until recently, open homosexuality has been an exclusionary factor for service in the armed forces. In December, the Senate voted to repeal [JURIST report] the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy implemented during the Clinton administration. The House of Representatives had passed a bill repealing the law [JURIST report] earlier the same week.

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