South Korean soldier prosecuted for being gay gives heartbreaking interview

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A gay South Korean soldier who has been prosecuted for his sexuality has given a heartbreaking interview about his situation.

The man spoke to BBC News, but remained anonymous for his own protection.

He is one of 18 soldiers currently on trial for being gay. Investigators are thought to have tracked down the gay men by using dating apps.

Homosexual activity is illegal in the army in South Korea, and the country still has conscription, meaning that all men will have to serve in the army for some point.

South Korean soldiers

South Korean soldiers (JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

“Do I have to live as a criminal because I am gay?” he asked.

“This law exists to kill homosexuals.”

Related: Thousands of people turned out for the biggest South Korea Pride yet this weekend

He added: “I was really embarrassed. The investigatory came to me all of a sudden and began to ask which soldiers I met and what I did with them.

“They took my phone as evidence. 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.”

The soldier continued: “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.”

The sentence for those convicted is a dishonourable discharge from the army and up to two years in prison.

In June this year, it emerged that 32 South Korean soldiers had been charged in what was described as a “witch hunt” against gay men and those thought to be gay.

One soldier was given a suspended prison sentence after being found guilty for having sex with another male soldier.

There have been reports that the country may reconsider or at least clarify the situation for gay soldiers.

Same-sex marriage is not recognised in South Korea and in 2014 it was estimated that 70 per cent of gay men in the country had not come out to their parents