[EDITORIALS]Aid the physically challengedToday marks the 24th annual day set aside for disabled people. The government designated this date to make our society a place where people with physical challenges can live together with those without handicaps, but the reality is gloomy.
The government and politicians have promised to promote the welfare of handicapped people, but it is hard to find improvements. This is the reason why disabled people’s organizations have presented various demands, such as enacting laws banning discrimination against the disabled; guaranteeing the rights of the disabled to work, to move and to be educated; granting pensions for the disabled; providing subsidies for the disabled to lead an independent life; and providing guarantees for the basic life of disabled people.
Since finding a job is the most serious problem, some concrete plans are urgently needed. According to a survey by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs in 2000, there are 1.45 million disabled people in Korea. Among them, the number of economically active people over 15 is 630,000, but only 450,000 are employed. The unemployment rate must be even higher now, considering the worsening economic situation.
What is worse is that the government has drastically reduced funding for the disabled this year. The subsidy paid to employers who hire the disabled has been reduced to 300,000 won ($260) from 474,000 won per month.
The government should not cut funding for disabled people. The ruling party listed a handicapped person at the top of the party’s list of candidates for proportional representation seats in the National Assembly in the last elections. That could be interpreted as a gesture to gain more votes if the government acts as it does now.
A total of 100 billion won is paid to employers who employ disabled people annually, but the government’s share is only 1 billion to 2 billion won, with the rest shouldered by the business community.
We must look at whether we really consider disabled people members of our society. They have the right to work and the government must guarantee their rights. We must discard the duplicity of talking about their welfare while not guaranteeing them places to work.