[EDITORIALS]Rights for the handicappedAt the National Assembly on Thursday, lawmakers from both the governing and opposition parties gave a standing ovation to Grand National Party Representative Jung Hwa-won, who became the first handicapped person in our parliamentary history to question the government at the Assembly.
The moving scene was an encouragement of the efforts of Mr. Jung, who is blind. His fingertips were worn out from reading material in Braille for his legislative activities. He put his 47-minute address into Braille, and memorized the whole text. Such an extraordinary effort deserves high praise.
Mr. Jung reprimanded the cabinet saying, “The welfare policy of the present government goes in the opposite direction. There is no presence of the handicapped in the government.” He asked the government to eliminate discrimination against the handicapped in education, pulbic facilities, employment and government policy.
His appeal is supported by the tragic deaths of some handicapped people recently: A man in his 60s killed his elder brother and his wife, who were both deaf, and their son, who was mentally handicapped. He had supported them, but he didn’t want to pass on the burden to his son. A man in his 40s with a hearing problem committed suicide because he could not make 1 million won ($984) to pay a fine of 700,000 won levied on his street stall and the 300,000 won rent for his room. These are extreme examples, but they show a cross section of the reality for some 4.5 million handicapped people.
With Handicapped People’s Day on Wednesday, 84 civic organizations are staging a joint struggle demanding the end of discrimination against handicapped people refusing participation at government-sponsored events. It is the fourth year since the protest began.
In Korea, some 40 percent of handicapped people lack proper transportation, over 70 percent have no jobs and less than 50 percent received secondary or higher education. This is the reality of the handicapped, and the reason why the government can’t say a word even though it hung a banner saying, “In Korea, the Handicapped Have No Human Rights!” on the National Human Rights Commission building.
The burden of the handicapped should be shared by society. We have to recognize the human rights of the handicapped and the government should implement measures to improve their education, living and social rights.