South Korea Supreme Court overturns convictions of soldiers for gay sex
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South Korea Supreme Court overturns convictions of soldiers for gay sex

The Supreme Court of South Korea Thursday overturned a 2019 military court conviction of two male soldiers sentenced for having consensual sex outside their military facilities.

In its landmark ruling, the Supreme Court said that the military court did not consider whether the defendant’s relations were consensual, stating the law should not apply to consensual sex away from a military setting. The Supreme Court stated that “[p]unishing 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.”

While homosexual activity is not illegal for South Korean civilians, the country’s 1962 Military Criminal Act Article 92-6 prohibits same-sex conduct among soldiers in the country’s military. Human rights advocates have long pushed for South Korea to decriminalize same-sex relationships for men in the military, warning that it fuels discrimination and stigmatization against gay soldiers.

Boram Jang, Amnesty International’s East Asia researcher in an emailed statement regarding the decision stated: “The criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual acts in South Korea’s military has long been a shocking violation of human rights, but today’s ruling should pave the way for military personnel to freely live their lives without the threat of prosecution.”

In response, the Ministry of National Defense said it would thoroughly review “the intent of the Supreme Court’s ruling.”