The first known transgender soldier in South Korea, who was discharged in January after undergoing gender reassignment surgery, was found dead in her home Wednesday, officials said.
Byun Hui-su, 23, a former staff sergeant and tank driver, hadn’t been in contact with local mental health counselors she was connected with since Sunday so they requested a welfare check at her home, according to Shin Jeong-hwan, an official with Cheongju’s fire department.
When they arrived, officials found Hui-su’s body and noted the corpse’s decomposition indicated she’d been dead for several days, Shin said.
The cause of death wasn’t immediately known.
Hui-su, who’d battled depression for an extended period over her gender identity, underwent gender reassignment surgery in November 2019 in Thailand and hoped to serve in the military’s female corps.
Instead, the military discharged her in January, saying the procedure was grounds for a dismissal. They cited a rule that allows the army to get rid of soldiers with physical or mental disabilities if the issues didn’t stem from combat or occur in the line of duty.
They said the surgery left Hui-su unable to complete her tour of duty.
Hui-su vowed to fight the dismissal and said at a January news conference she’d pursue a lawsuit.
“I will continue to fight until the day I can remain to serve in the army,” she said.
“I’ll challenge the decision until the end, to the Supreme Court.”
The former soldier broke down as she told reporters about her struggles with gender dysphoria, the psychological condition attributed to the conflict between physical gender and gender identity.
“It was an extremely difficult decision to let my base know of my identity, but once I did, I felt much better,” Hui-su said at the time.
“I thought I would finish serving in the army and then go through the transition surgery and then re-enter the army as a female soldier. But my depression got too severe.”
With Post wires
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