23-year-old Byun Hee-soo, a former South Korean soldier who was forcefully discharged from the military after undergoing gender reassignment surgery, was found dead at her home in Cheongju on Wednesday.
Her therapist alerted authorities that Byun could not be reached via phone since Sunday.
Her death comes after a year of battles against the Army, which had discharged her saying that Byun's loss of male genitalia and continuous hormonal treatment after her surgery constituted a physical disability under military law.
Byun had filed a suit against the decision, seeking to continue serving as a female soldier and the first hearing was to take place next month.
"We express our condolences over the regrettable death of former staff sergeant Byun Hee-soo . The ministry has not had detailed discussions on possible review of transgender people serving in the military."
During Byun's lifetime she had said she thought being part of the military, considered one of the most conservative groups in South Korea, would help her deal with and overcome her gender dysphoria, a condition she said she had been struggling with since she was young.
"Since I was young, my dream was to become a soldier to protect this country and its people. And although the training was tough, I was elated that my dream came true."
Her dreams were short-lived, however with the military's decision to discharge her.
And now news of her abrupt death adds to the unanswered conundrum she threw to Korean society where the LGBTI community is generally regarded as a taboo.
In 2019, Amnesty International warned that LGBTI soldiers in South Korea face violence and harassment due to a 1962 law that criminalizes consensual sex between same-sex servicemen.
Violators can be punished with up to two years in prison.
When asked about such criticism, the Defense Ministry says it is waiting for a verdict from the Supreme Court, which has been asked to consider whether the law needs to be repealed or amended.
Kim Ji-yeon, Arirang News.