Disabled South Koreans demand more rights

Reuters

by Reuters

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Life for 48-year old Choi Jong-hun can be hard some days.

He used to work construction, but a stroke in 2002 left him partially paralysed and speech impaired.

For people living with disabilities in South Korea, a numbering system determines who and how much social welfare the government provide.

In Choi's case-- labeled a level 2 disability-- he does not qualify for help with household chores like cooking and laundry. For that he relies on his roommate-- who is also disabled, but who has a higher level of incapacity which entitles him to a care giver.

As the sigma of disability lingers in South Korea, wheel-chair access and state benefits for the disabled are few and far between.

A human rights spokesperson says it's a matter of money and manpower.

(SOUNDBITE) (Korean) CHO HYONGSEOK, DIRECTOR AT NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF KOREA DISABILITY SPECIAL INVESTIGATION, SAYING:

"It's true that providing services with a labeling system is efficient in terms of administration. If we change the system, which is providing services fulfilling individual's needs, it will require much more manpower and budget. Such difficulty exists."

To draw attention to such matters, Choi and other disabled citizens have been staked out in a busy subway station for the past 60 days.

The group hopes to draw attention to their plight, although as one demonstrator admitted, it's tough, slow going work.

(SOUNDBITE) (Korean) 38-YEAR-OLD KIM JON-WOO CLASSIFIED AS LEVEL-ONE DISABILITY SAYING:

"We don't want to fight, either. We hate to go out on a cold street to hold a news conference and protest for hours. We hate it. Who would like it? However, without these fights, nothing will change."

He may be right. A demonstration about 10 years ago in which disabled people chained themselves to subway tracks, did result in more elevators being installed in some stations.

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