“Is ‘the Red Gay’ a Matter?” : Gender and Sexual Politics of the Military and National Security Ideology in South Korea

Thursday, 19 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Seongjo JEONG, Chung-Ang University, Republic of Korea
This paper aims to analyze the gender and sexual politics of the South Korean military validated by national security ideology in the system of Korean peninsular division. The gender and sexual politics of the South Korean military should be understood in terms of the traces left by the authoritarian regime and the legacy of the Cold-War. Since 1945 liberation, the authoritarian regime emphasized the anti-communist ideology to claim the legitimacy, creating a "real man" discourse centered on the military. Only men who had done their military service were granted the qualification as a 'first class citizen'. Until now, in the midst of inter-Korean tension, the male-centered military culture and the conscription system have been hardly challenged. This paper especially focuses on the military institutions which are based on the strict gender binary system: it criminalizes LGBT and Queer people in the military and normalizes and stabilizes the status of a cis-gender heterosexual male. For instance, MTF transgender is forced to surgically transform their body in order to prove that she is a real transgender, not a draft evader, during the physical examination. In addition, article 92-6 of the Military Criminal Act is originally written as an article that penalizes homosexual intercourse in the military, but in fact, this is a sodomy law that punishes the existence of gay soldiers. Furthermore, the recent military crisis of East Asia will be a stumbling block to the improvement of human rights of LGBT and Queer people in South Korea, because many challenges to the military institutions have been impeded by conservative groups that stigmatize and slander homosexuals as “Red Gay”, pro-north Korean homosexuals. The effects of the gender and sexual politics of military should be analyzed thoroughly, as the political forces that encourage the politics of hatred and military tensions are prevalent today.