THE South Korean army has launched a crackdown on gay servicemen, going as far as using dating apps to identify homosexuals, after a sex video of two male soldiers emerged on the Internet this year, a rights group said.
Military Human Rights Centre for Korea (MHRCK) chief Lim Tae-hoon said military investigators have pressured soldiers to reveal their gay peers, confiscated cellphones to check communication records, and are using the dating apps to “trap” soldiers to reveal their sexuality, the South China Morning Post (via the Associated Press) reported.
“Military investigators used the information they gained from the investigation on the sex video to track down other gay soldiers in the army, starting by forcing the suspects to identify who they had sex with and then widening their search from there,” Lim was quoted as saying.
Lim said he received a tip-off from a soldier about the alleged crackdown, but the army has denied the case had sparked a wider effort to identify gay soldiers.
Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) group in conservative South Korea face harsh stigmatisation and often become victims of hate crimes in the country.
Due to the possibility of military conflict with the reclusive North, it is mandatory for all able-bodied men in South Korea to serve the army for two years. Gay men are therefore not exempt from conscription and are banned from any homosexual activity during service.
Fearing discrimination and reprisals, they often serve without revealing their sexual identity.
“South Korea’s military doesn’t exclude gay men from compulsory duty, but once they enter the military, they are seen as dangerous and treated as potential criminals, as the ongoing army investigation shows,” the AP quoted Han Ga-ram, an openly gay human rights lawyer, as saying.
According to Korea Expose, the army was systematically tracking down homosexual soldiers with its central cyber investigation team conducting a secret nationwide investigation in February and March.
The effort is an alleged attempt to establish a “gay blacklist”, which the army denies having. However, the army admitted to arresting the gay soldiers in the video under the Military Criminal Act.
The names of some 40 to 50 soldiers were logged in the so-called “blacklist”, of which twenty are expected to be prosecuted, the MHRCK alleged.
On Monday, the MHRCK issued a press release showing allegedly recorded phone calls between military interrogators and soldiers. The rights group said it would bring the case to the country’s National Human Rights Commission.