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Rights watchdog looks into 'gay soldier hunt'

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By Kim Bo-eun

The nation's human rights watchdog has begun an investigation into alleged rights abuses in a "gay soldier hunt" conducted by the Army earlier this year.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea said the Center for Military Human Rights Korea (CMHRK) filed a petition on April 25, and that it began an investigation last month.

The CMHRK claimed in April that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Jang Jun-gyu ordered the hunt for homosexual soldiers, based on the military penal code, which bans homosexual acts.

The search followed an investigation of an Army captain who posted a video of him having sex with another male soldier.

The military court sentenced him to a six-month prison term with a one-month suspension on May 24.

The Military Criminal Act states the act of "sodomy" can be punishable with up to a two-year prison term.

Army officers began the search after obtaining information from the captain.

The CMHRK claimed the search put 40 to 50 soldiers on the list. In the process, the officers had sexually humiliated the soldiers by asking about the details of gay sex, such as whether they "enjoyed it."

The officers also reportedly confiscated the soldiers' mobile phones without warrants, to conduct digital forensic operations.

In addition, there are also claims they threatened the soldiers that they would disclose their sexual orientation unless they cooperated with investigations.

The CMHRK and sexual minority groups state subjecting homosexual soldiers to investigations on the basis of their orientation is a grave violation of human rights.

The rights watchdog will look into these claims, which it said will take two to three months.

"We will review overseas cases in making recommendations," an official said.

It has called for abolishing the clause in the military penal code banning gay sex a number of times since 2006. Attention is growing over whether measures will actually be taken under the Moon Jae-in administration, because the President has been stressing the protection of human rights.

Last month, Moon ordered ministries to respect the human rights watchdog's recommendations and that this would be reflected in the evaluation of ministers.

Kim Bo-eun


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