[EDITORIALS]Disabled Need Political Support

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[EDITORIALS]Disabled Need Political Support

Lee Il-se, a human rights activist and a disabled person with a serious spinal illness, recently resigned from his job with the Millennium Democratic Party as leader of a special committee for the disabled. He had participated in establishing the party. While a student at Harvard University, Mr. Lee was active; he was the head of a disabled student organizaion. He had a strong sense of mission to lead the changes in political circles; he had no regrets giving up a university professor's position that everyone envied. However, the wall of a political life proved too high for him to climb.

In our society, the disabled are treated coldly - beyond our imagination. The disabled cannot travel easily on the street because wheelchair passageways are rare, and large stone obstacles are scattered everywhere on sidewalks. Instead of living harmoniously with the disabled, some even hold demonstrations protesting the building of welfare facilities and schools for the disabled near their homes. Although the disabled should be protected, they are socially molested, and suffer from a series of agonies throughout our society.

Today, the total number of disabled persons in Korea has reached nearly 5 million, but we do not have a single lawmaker who can represent such a large population. That is the deplorable reality of our political arena. Of the 270 lawmakers, none is disabled. At the three by-elections, no party has a candidate who is a disabled person. The National Congress for New Politics and the Democratic Party for Peace, which were the predecessors of the ruling MDP, each had one lawmaker who was disabled during the 13th and the 15th sessions of the National Assembly. It's obvious that politics has taken a step backward. The official organizations of the parties, which should focus on representing voices of the people from all classes, pay no attention to the disabled. Only the MDP runs a special committee for the disabled - for the time being. The Grand National Party, the majority party in the house, and the United Liberal Democrats operate no organizations dealing with the affairs of the disabled. The disabled are not second-class citizens. Parties should carefully listen to their voice and come up with measures to support them.

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