The South Korean army is using dating apps to out gay soldiers, reports have suggested.
According to campaign group the Military Human Rights Centre for Korea, military officials launched an army-wide search for gay and bisexual men after a video of two soldiers having sex was uploaded online.
The group report that army chief of staff General Jang Jun-kyu ordered the “track-down process” to expose gay military personell, with about 40 to 50 soldiers identified as being gay so far, and at least one arrested.
Officials allegedly used fake profiles on dating apps to try and lure soldiers into outing themselves, while prosecutors coerced one soldier, already under investigation, into approaching another officer to extract information.
While homosexuality isn’t illegal in South Korea, it is illegal for men in the army to engage in same-sex sexual intercourse, and soldiers caught can face arrest and up to two years in prison.
Although that might sound extreme, it wasn’t until 2011 that the United States repealed their own anti-gay policy, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which forced gay and bisexual men and women to keep their sexuality a secret.
The Military Human Rights Centre of Korea released a statement suggesting that South Korea’s ban on being openly gay in the military puts them in line with countries who torture LGBT+ people.
They wrote: “If military personnel who served without any problem are forced to be dishonourably discharge and sent to prison due to their sexual orientation, it is hard to distinguish Korea from the worrisome countries where homosexuals are detained, tortured and executed.
“Gen. Jang is obviously incapable of leading the army. He treated his men who did their best to protect their homeland as if they were culprits and made them suffer the most horrible fear – losing personal dignity.
“He must take responsibility and resign immediately.”
Han Ga-ram, an openly gay human rights lawyer, warned the Associated Press that conducting investigations in an attempt to ‘out’ closeted gay soldiers in the military could leader to an increase in hate crimes.
He said: “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.
“Hate crimes against LGBT people are already a serious problem, and the government could make it worse by sending the wrong message by punishing gay men in the military.”
The South Korean army denied that General Jang had ordered a mass probe of suspected gay soldiers, but did acknowledge “we are punishing soldiers on service who have homosexual relations”.