The news agency reported that Byun was discovered by a mental health counselor after no one could reach the former soldier since February 28, 2021.
The soldier had previously tried to kill herself, but the cause of death was not yet clear and no suicide note was found, according to the South Korean news agency.
“I’m a soldier of the Republic of Korea,” Byun had told the media at a press conference, insisting she still wanted to serve, according to Channel News Asia, which reported that Byun’s death has provoked anger in South Korea because of the way she was treated by the country’s military. The site reported that the death is being treated as a suicide even though the official cause has not yet been determined. The death is under investigation.
According to that site, Byun also once told the news media: “Putting aside my sexual identity, I want to show everyone that I can be one of the great soldiers defending this country. Please give me that chance.” She was “fighting back tears” as she said this.
Here’s what you need to know:
Byun Was South Korea’s First Transgender Soldier
Byun was South Korea’s first transgender soldier, according to The Guardian, which reported that the military discharged her after she had gender reassignment surgery.
According to the Guardian, Byun was “formerly a staff sergeant” who had “enlisted voluntarily in 2017 and went on to have gender confirmation surgery in 2019 in Thailand.”
In South Korea, transgender people are banned from joining the military but Byun had the surgery after already being accepted into the Army, the Guardian reported.
According to BBC, South Korea is considered to be a country intolerant of LGBTQ people’s rights, which has concerned international humanitarian groups. Byun was regarded as a transformative figure who was trying to change this in her home country.
A Commission Sided With Byun After the Military Claimed Byun had a ‘Physical Disability’
According to the news agency, the Army had discharged Byun last January after deeming that Byun’s “loss of male genitals belongs to the Level 3 physical disability under the military laws.”
Byun sought reinstatement, but it was denied, and then sued on the basis of unconstitutionality. The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) agreed with Byun, according to YonHap News Agency.
Channel News Asian reported that there is a move for anti-discrimination legislation in the wake of Byun’s death and one person wrote on social media, “The whole of Korean society bears responsibility for her death. Those who ridiculed her and made malicious online comments because she was transgender, I want you to reflect on what you did to her.”
BBC reported that there were demonstrations from those who wanted her dismissed from the military and other people targeted Byun online. The country does not have anti-discrimination laws to protect transgender people, according to BBC.