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Korean Church seeks more support for disabled, elderly

Despite having anti-discrimination laws, rights of disabled people are not adequately protected, activists say
Kim Ok-Soon, 90, sits in her one-room shack in the village of Guryong outside Gangnam in Seoul, South Korea in this file photo

Kim Ok-Soon, 90, sits in her one-room shack in the village of Guryong outside Gangnam in Seoul, South Korea in this file photo. (Ed Jonses/AFP/Getty Images)

Published: November 14, 2023 04:17 AM GMT
Updated: November 14, 2023 05:43 AM GMT

A top Church leader in South Korea has called on the government and charities to raise awareness for better support to the weaker sections of the society including the right to mobility of the disabled and elderly people.

"It is still important to expand the horizon of people's awareness that the right to mobility is not only for the disabled but for all of us, such as the elderly and parents with children in strollers,” said Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taek of Seoul.

Chung made the remarks during a meeting with the representatives of the National Solidarity for the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities at the Archbishop’s House in Seoul on Nov. 10, the archdiocesan news site, Good News reported. 

The prelate called for creating awareness and consensus building among key stakeholders rather than protests to achieve the goal of creating mobility awareness in the country.

"[To] obtain the consensus of the government, local governments, and political parties, we should seek a way to form a consensus among members of society rather than protest," he said.

Lee Gyu-sik and Park Kyung-seok, members of the disabled group attended the meeting.

The meeting was organized after Park delivered a letter last month to Chung pointing out deficiencies in the government’s budget for people with disabilities.

During the meeting, Park alleged that less than 50 percent of the budget set for people with disabilities was implemented.

“Despite the revision of the law on the introduction of low-floor buses in 2021, less than 50 percent of the budget allocated for 2023 has been implemented," Park said.

Park also lamented asking “why the state does not fulfill its legal obligations," adding that the "basic civil rights for the socially vulnerable should be protected."

Chung pointed out that he had not verified the allegations regarding the budget exclusions laid out by Park but assured him that he would support the group to build consensus and awareness on the issues faced by them.

"I will be with you as one of the people so that the right to mobility can gain the consensus of all the people,” Chung said.

In a meeting in February with the representatives of the group and lawmakers Chung urged all citizens to get involved in solving the mobility issues of the disabled.

South Korea has passed anti-discrimination laws to support and assist people with disabilities.

The Anti-Discrimination against and Remedies for Persons with Disabilities Act was enacted on April 10, 2007, and was intended “to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in all aspects of life.”

Article 4 of the act specifically prohibits both explicit discrimination against people with disabilities and “disability-blind standards that cause the disabled persons to be unfairly treated without justifiable grounds, despite the absence of explicitly unfavorable treatment.”

Employers and facilities across the nation are required to provide suitable means of access for the disabled. They are also not allowed to “restrict, exclude, separate, or reject persons with disabilities.”

Disability in Korea is viewed by families as detrimental to their social standing and they try to hide a disabled person from the social sphere, says Disability:IN, a non-profit organization.

Traditionally, Koreans believe that having disabilities is the result of the geomantic system of topography used in choosing auspicious sites for graves and houses, sins committed in a previous existence, the fault of an ancestor, or a wicked ghost.

In 2022, South Korea had 2.65 million people registered as disabled persons, the highest since 1989, according to statista.com.

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