[MINORITY VOICE]The Wider Lesson From a Helping HandThe nation marked the 21st Day for Disabled Persons on April 20. It was not an auspicious day. A recent Gallup study reconfirmed that Koreans' prejudice against the disabled has remained unchanged for the past 15 years, and statistics released by the Ministry of Health and Welfare show that 634 Korean children were adopted abroad last year, while just 18 were adopted domestically.
The story of Adam King, a Korean adoptee, and his adoptive parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles King, who have adopted three other ethnic Korean children, tugged at the heartstrings of many Koreans. In particular, Mr. King humbled us when he cited the dozens of surgeries that his disabled children had undergone as his most painful memory.
Article 2 of the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children shall not be discriminated against under any circumstances. That means that disabled children should be able to live wherever they want to and go to any school they wish to attend.
Those who resist the construction of accommodations or facilities for the disabled in their neighborhoods violate both the U.N. Convention and the Korean constitution.
The "Not In My Back Yard" syndrome in foreign countries mainly pertains to environmental issues. In Korea, however, people protest against the building of institutions for the disabled or the needy in their neighborhoods, arguing it would cause real estate values to fall. Who would respect a leader who overlooks the rights of the needy or disabled in order to protect house prices?
Many Western people are motivated to adopt disabled children by a sense of moral duty. Their Christian ethics tell them to follow the Bible's teachings, which state, "You are your brother's keeper." Secondly, doing something for others is in accordance with their social order and customs. Thirdly, no matter how rich and famous someone may be, he or she will not win social respect or recognition as someone of rank without sharing what he or she has with others. Charles Dickens's "Christmas Carol" makes it easier to understand such a notion. Nobody thought of Scrooge as a successful man even though he was rolling in dough. He may have been a man of big fortune but was not a man of success. But after he began to share, he became successful and loved. Helping others is no longer a job for Samaritans but a duty for all.
A current television program features success stories of those who have worked hard to earn a lot of money or fame, or those who have achieved their dreams. I am worried that this program could encourage children to value money-making above their ethics and duties as a person. I regret that although all of those successful people must have done their fair share of good for others, this aspect of their success is left out of most of the episodes.
There is a tradition in the Western world of sharing with others and returning wealth to society. In fact, in the West, in some cases, it is easier to return fortunes to society because inheritance is subject to hefty taxes. And greed has its limits because the wealthy, or even ordinary persons, do not have to depend on their children in their old age, thanks to advanced social security systems. They know when to say "I have enough."
And then they begin to share.
The writer is chairman of the Korean Foster Care Association.
by Park Young-sook