The sponsors of the law include representatives from all of the major opposition parties but no members of the ruling Saenuri Party, reports koreabang.com.
It was confirmed March 21 that lawmakers in the National Assembly had proposed eliminating the military law code specifying criminal penalties for homosexual acts.
The South Korea military has in recent times been the scene of infamous physical abuse and some critics say this will now become even more dangerous as gay senior officers are able to take advantage of new recruits. Others say the lawmakers are using the issue to score political points.
Jin Seon-mi, a National Assembly Member and member of the Democratic Party, along with ten other members opposition parties, proposed removing clause 6 of article 96 of the military law code that states, “any soldier, military employee, reservist, or conscript on alternative duty who commits sodomy or otherwise molests a fellow soldier shall be punished with up to two years’ incarceration.”
Jin and her fellow lawmakers explained, that “under the current military law code, there is no punishment for engaging in typical [heterosexual] sexual acts, so long as they are not forced or in a public space.
However, clause 6 of article 9 punishes homosexual sexual activity even if it is consensual and private…in cases where soldiers have disrupted military sexual discipline, applying criminal punishment of two years’ incarceration only if the participants are homosexuals seems to violate constitutional principles of fairness.”
The lawmakers went on to state that even in Korea respect for individualism and sexual openness has led to many changes in citizen’s preference for how the law should treat sexual activity. “Our society is slowly progressing beyond the belief that homosexual sexual activity is abnormal or severely violates our sexual morals,” they said.
“We have recognized that discrimination based on someone’s sexual preference in hiring or elsewhere violates principles of equality, leading us to recommend that the law be changed to reflect changes in our society,” they added.
On the day before the bill’s presentation, Assembly Member Kim Kwang-jin from the opposition Democratic Party stated on his Twitter: “Due to preparations for the bill eliminating the criminal penalties in clause 6 of article 92 of the military law code, our office today was deluged with phone calls in protest, so many that we couldn’t get anything done except answer the phones…In a better world, those sponsoring this bill would receive more calls of support than calls of protest.”
Article 31 of the Korean Human Rights Committee Law bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but Article 92 of the Military Penal Code singles out same sex relations as “sexual harassment,” punishable by a year in prison.
General awareness of homosexuality has remained low among the Korean public and Korean gays and lesbians still face difficulties, and many prefer not to reveal their gay identity to their family, friends or co-workers.