SEOUL − Three South Korea-based colonels have been reprimanded for their part in a skit that officials believe made fun of homosexuals and the rules designed to protect them in the military.
The skit – performed March 22 at a dinner attended by 8th Army officials at the Dragon Hill Lodge on Yongsan Garrison – featured the officers using effeminate gestures in portraying openly gay musicians Elton John and George Michael as soldiers, and then lip-synching a song by Boy George, who is also homosexual.
Details of the incident and punishment were initially reported by the Army Times and confirmed Tuesday by 8th Army officials.
The Eighth Army commander, Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson, who did not witness the skit, determined the officers did not violate any regulations with their performance, but gave them administrative reprimands for showing “extremely poor judgment.”
The colonels reprimanded were Joseph Cox, commander of the 501st Military Intelligence Brigade; Brian Dunn, commander of the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade; and Mark Elliott, commander of the 1st Signal Brigade.
“They attempted to make light of the change we were making and the transition of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ ” Johnson was quoted as saying by the Army Times. “They did it in a way that was offensive to some people and it didn’t get their point across, and quite frankly, I think they embarrassed themselves in the process.
“It was obvious to everyone associated with this thing that what they had done was inappropriate because there was every chance that someone could have been offended by this, in particular, potentially gay soldiers,” he told the newspaper.
The officers, who reportedly have exemplary service records, wrote letters of apology for their actions. Johnson told the Army Times their reprimands were put in their “local files” and will not follow them after they leave South Korea unless the commander believes there is a reason to do so.
Two command sergeants major who could have intervened before the skit was performed were reportedly “counseled” by Johnson.
Referring to the overall incident, Johnson told the Army Times, “That’s not the way the Army does things. We treat people with dignity and respect. You may not agree with their lifestyles, but there are a lot of reasons people don’t agree with each other’s lifestyle, but in the end, you treat each other with respect as a fellow soldier and what they bring as a soldier.”