Rights group calls for end to South Korea military sex law


Seoul (AFP)

An international human rights group called on Thursday for South Korea to stop criminalising homosexual acts between soldiers, calling the military law a "blight" on the country's human rights record.

Under Seoul's military regulations, soldiers of the same gender caught having sex can face up to two years in prison -- even though it is legal in civilian life.

All able-bodied South Korean men are obliged to serve for 21 months in South Korea's near 600,000-strong military, which is faced off against North Korea's 1.28 million-strong army.

"South Korea?s domestic laws should comply with its international human rights obligations by decriminalizing same-sex activity in the military," the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement, saying the sodomy law should be "relegated to the history books".

There is no reason for South Korea to criminalise same-sex conduct among military officers when it doesn't punish civilians for such acts, the group added.

The military sodomy law, enacted in 1962, was contested in the country's Constitutional Court three times, with the latest ruling in 2016. It was upheld in a 5-4 ruling two years ago.

It requires six out of nine judges to declare a law unconstitutional.

South Korea President Moon Jae-in has said he was opposed to homosexuality in the military, noting it would cause "side effects", drawing protest from civic groups -- especially in light of his career as a human rights lawyer.