March 04, 2021 12:17
Korea's first transgender soldier, former Army sergeant Byun Hee-soo (23), was found dead in her home in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province on Wednesday.
Byun had been a tank driver with a military unit in northern Gyeonggi Province until she had gender reassignment surgery in Thailand while on leave in 2019.
The Army discharged her last year since the loss of genitals is considered a physical disability and gender dysphoria is classified as a mental disorder.
According to firefighters in North Chungcheong Province, Byun was found dead at home at 5:49 p.m. Wednesday after a mental health counselor notified emergency workers when she became unreachable after Feb. 28. Firefighters found her dead on her bed. A firefighter said, "Judging by the level of physical decomposition, she appears to have died a few days ago."
Neighbors said the ex-soldier attempted to take her own life in mid-November last year, prompting police to be called. They also said a foul smell had begun to emanate from her house.
Byun lived alone while her parents live in another part of Cheongju. Police suspect suicide since there were no signs of forced entry, but no suicide note was found.
After the Army discharged her, Byun took legal steps to fight the decision. She won court recognition in February last year of her changed gender, so she filed an appeal with the Army to reverse the decision to discharge her, but the Army rejected it and she sued again.
The new trial was to have started on March 15.
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