• A South Korean soldier stands guard at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in the border village of Panmunjom, South Korea, 28 September 2017. (GETTY IMAGES ASIAPAC / POOL)
The soldier is one of 18 men facing imprisonment after a recent crackdown on gay people in the military.
Michaela Morgan

29 Sep 2017 - 11:51 AM  UPDATED 29 Sep 2017 - 11:51 AM

A South Korean soldier has described being targeted by an investigation aimed at weeding out gay members of the military in an interview with the BBC

The soldier —who chose to remain anonymous to protect his identity—is one of 18 men who are currently on trial under the Military Criminal Act that bans same-sex sexual activity. 

In a recent crackdown, officials reportedly used gay dating apps to entrap the young men in what Amnesty International described as an “outrageous military gay witch hunt”.

“They took my phone as evidence,” the soldier told the BBC. “I’m constantly afraid that other soldiers in my battalion will find out.”

“I’m also scared of what the outcome of the trial will be and how long I will have to spend in jail.”

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The soldiers could be imprisoned for up to two years if found guilty of ‘sodomy’ or ‘disgraceful conduct’. 

The soldier added that he’s been forced to keep his true identity a secret, not just in the military but from his relatives as well. 

“Our country still looks at homosexuality in a negative way, so I’ve kept my sexuality hidden from my family. 

“I heard from other gay people that their parents were shocked when they told them. Once the trial is done I’ll tell my parents.

“I’m always trembling with fear. If I’m convicted I’ll have to give up my dream and leave the army. I feel betrayed by the military and by my country.”

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The South Korean government released a statement in August saying: "We are reviewing the law so it will make the rules clearer for gay soldiers.” But it is unclear whether that would mean relaxing the ban.  

A gay South Korean soldier was convicted in May this year for his sexuality and was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for one year. 

Roseann Rife, the East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International said at the time that the conviction should be “immediately overturned”. 

“No-one should be persecuted based on their sexual orientation, activity or gender identity alone. What counts is their service not their sexuality,” she said