korean law ruling allows change of sex

During the weeks I ventured west into the mountains, Korea’s Supreme Court was debating whether to permit male-to-female transsexuals to legally change their gender as documented on their birth certificate. I am very happy to hear last Thursday the ruling was allowed, however I’m of the opinion that legal rulings on gender identity are no less repressive and didactic than religious hegemony, and usually through the mediocrity of compromise what could have been a substantive change in cultural perception becomes an indeterminate middle-ground quagmire, too prescriptive to humanely acknowledge the real world of sex and gender.

In short, it does not go far enough, primarily because it explicitly bases establishment of gender identity on that least-seen and most irrelevant piece of anatomy in everyday life. Secondly because it treats transsexuality as a medical condition, or more accurately, pathologises it, in remarkable the same way that being homosexual once could lead directly to lobotomies. I guess it’s better than getting burnt at the stake.

“Gender should be decided by not only physical appearance but also the person’s mentality and psychology, and society’s attitude to that person. This means that gender is decided by diverse factors, and that a person’s mental and social gender, which he or she did not recognize at birth, can be found during his or her social life,” the court said in its ruling.

Following such a definition, the court also suggested five criteria in deciding whether to recognize transsexuals’ new genders in official records.

First, the person should have had a feeling of physical disorientation about his or her birth sex and have felt that he or she belongs to the opposite sex through to their adult lives.

The person should have received psychological counseling to determine their mental sexuality, and also eventually have undergone surgery to have the desired sex’s physicality.

After surgery, the person needs to live a biological and social life that meets his or her new gender. He or she also should not cause severe changes in relationships with others and his or her friends and family should acknowledge the change.

— The Korean Times

Landmark Supreme Court ruling allows legal change of sex

Family registry to reflect change, court says

In a landmark ruling, South Korea’s top court on Thursday cleared the way for the country’s transsexuals to legally change their gender.

The Supreme Court ruled that a female-to-male transsexual should be allowed to change the gender listed in his family registry from “female” to “male.” The ruling came after two lower courts rejected petitions by the same client in 2003. The court then remanded the case to the Cheongju District Court.

Since local civil and family-registry laws contain no clear definition of one’s sex, court rulings have moved between a biologically-based view that chromosomes alone determine gender, and agreeing with sex-change recipients that psychological factors are more important in gender identity. This ruling is the first by the nation’s top court on the issue, so it is likely to serve as an important standard for future rulings. Many of the nation’s estimated 30,000 transgender citizens are likely to follow suit and petition to change their sex legally.

“If one is clearly recognizable as the opposite sex in both appearance as well as in their individual and social life after having sex-reassignment surgery, he or she has the right to pursue dignity, self-value, and happiness and live a humane existence,” said Justice Kim Ji-hyung in his ruling.

“We should recognize their gender change, if this does not go against public interests or order,” Justice Kim said.

Justice Kim said the court decision was best choice to alleviate the suffering of transsexual people at a time when any tangible legislative measures to protect their rights is most likely a long time coming.

An increasing number of transgender people in South Korea have asked courts to allow them to change their sex in family registries since the Busan District Court accepted an appeal by a 30-year-old man, identified only by his family name Yoon, to change his sex to female.

Twenty-two people were allowed to change their gender in 2003, followed by 10 in 2004 and 15 in 2005.

The most well-known transgender celebrity in South Korea is popular entertainer Harisu, who underwent a male-to-female sex-change operation. The actress, singer, and model was allowed by a district court to legally switch her sex from male to female in December 2002.

However, South Korean courts are strict on permitting such legal gender changes. Ten people lost in court in attempts to legally change their sex in 2004. Another six lost similar cases in 2005.

Harisu welcomed Thursday’s ruling as a “quite right and natural decision.”

“A democratic society must legally ensure the human dignity of its members,” the entertainer told Yonhap News Agency by telephone.

The South Korean military said a male-to-female transsexual will be exempt from serving the mandatory two years and two months of military duty if the individual’s gender reads as “female” in the family registry with court approval. On the other hand, female-to-male sex reassignment recipients will have to complete military duty under the same circumstances, the military said.

By Shim Sun-ah, Seoul, June 22 (Yonhap News)

— The Hankyoreh

Transsexual Ruling to Bring Changes

By Kim Rahn
Staff Reporter

Thursday’s milestone Supreme Court ruling allowing a female-to-male transsexual to legally change gender on the family registration record is expected to bring many changes in laws and regulations.

“Gender should be decided by not only physical appearance but also the person’s mentality and psychology, and society’s attitude to that person. This means that gender is decided by diverse factors, and that a person’s mental and social gender, which he or she did not recognize at birth, can be found during his or her social life,” the court said in its ruling.

Following such a definition, the court also suggested five criteria in deciding whether to recognize transsexuals’ new genders in official records.

First, the person should have had a feeling of physical disorientation about his or her birth sex and have felt that he or she belongs to the opposite sex through to their adult lives.

The person should have received psychological counseling to determine their mental sexuality, and also eventually have undergone surgery to have the desired sex’s physicality.

After surgery, the person needs to live a biological and social life that meets his or her new gender. He or she also should not cause severe changes in relationships with others and his or her friends and family should acknowledge the change.

Those who meet the five criteria above can legally have the new gender.

With the ruling expected to help transsexuals in their social life including marriage, getting jobs and military service, related laws and regulations will also be changed.

Military service

For military service, an obligation of all South Korean men aged 20 and over, male-to-female transsexuals were previously classified as those with mental disease, and were exempt from duty. Female-to-male transsexuals were not subject to military duty.

Following the ruling, male-to-female transsexuals who legally change gender will be automatically exempted. In the case of female-to-male transsexuals, the Military Manpower Administration said it would classify them as subject for duty.

But imposing the military service duty on the female-to-male transsexuals is impossible under the administration’s current regulations, as they have no provision about artificially created genitalia.

Resident registration numbers

Transsexuals who are permitted to change gender on family registration records can change their resident registration numbers. The 13-digit number starts with “1” for men, and with “2” for women.

Registering the change in official records is expected to help transsexuals get regular jobs. Many transsexuals who have difficulty getting jobs have worked as non-regular workers or worked in bars, without benefits such as medical insurance.

Sex-related crimes

In 1996, a man who raped a male-to-female transsexual was acquitted of rape but charged with forced sexual harassment. The court did not recognize the rape charge at that time, saying the victim was not a true woman.

The ruling is also expected to see changes in sentences related to sexual assaults on transsexuals.

Family Relations

The new ruling, however, is expected to bring some confusion.

The court said that although the gender on official records is changed, the change would not affect legal relationships made before the change.

For example, if a married man with children undergoes a transsexual operation to become a woman and legally changes this in registration records, the person still remains as husband and father to the wife and children.

Also, as the nation does not recognize same-sex marriage, the ruling is certain to bring about debate on the validity of marital relations.

— The Korean Times