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"Military investigators used the information they gained from the investigation on the sex video to track down other gay soldiers in the army, starting by forcing the suspects to identify who they had sex with and then widening their search from there," said Lim, who said a soldier tipped his group off about the alleged crackdown. Korean Street Performer Promotes Acceptance With Art In conservative South Korea, gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people are harshly stigmatized and struggle to be politically visible, while a powerful Christian lobby immobilizes politicians seeking to pass anti-discrimination laws.
Military investigators looking into the case have threatened soldiers to out their gay peers, confiscated cellphones to check communication records, and even used dating apps to dupe soldiers into revealing their sexual identity, said Lim Tae-hoon, the head of the Military Human Rights Center for Korea, which tracks down abuses in the armed forces.
South Korea's army says it's conducting a proper criminal investigation into soldiers allegedly involved with filming and uploading the video, which is a violation of the country's communications laws and a military penal code that makes homosexual activity punishable by up to two years in prison.
"South Korea's military doesn't exclude gay men from compulsory duty, but once they enter the military, they are seen as dangerous and treated as potential criminals, as the ongoing army investigation shows," said Han Ga-ram, an openly gay human rights lawyer.
He said the investigation had "touched off fear in the LGBT community." "Hate crimes against LGBT people are already a serious problem, and the government could make it worse by sending the wrong message by punishing gay men in the military," Han said.