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Ex-South Korean Transgender Soldier Found Dead at Home

FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, photo, South Korean army Sergeant Byun Hee-soo speaks during a press conference at the Center for Military Human Right Korea in Seoul, South Korea.

The body of South Korea’s first openly transgender soldier was found in her home Wednesday, more than a year after she was discharged from active duty.

Authorities in the central city of Cheongju, located south of Seoul, say rescue workers went to check on 23-year-old Byun Hee-soo after mental health counselors had not heard from her since Sunday.

Authorities said she had been dead for several days, but the cause of Byun’s death was not immediately known. According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the local mental health care clinic said Byun attempted suicide three months ago.

Byun, who rose to the rank of staff sergeant, was discharged last January, just two months after undergoing sex reassignment surgery in Thailand, as South Korea prohibits transgender people from serving in the military. She petitioned the army for reinstatement in July but was rejected.

Byun had filed a lawsuit against the military with the help of the Center for Military Human Rights Korea, arguing her dismissal was unconstitutional. An initial hearing was scheduled for next month.

The Defense Ministry expressed its condolences over Byun’s death.