Seoul Station’s ban on homeless goes into effect

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Seoul Station’s ban on homeless goes into effect

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Homeless people sit down and discuss Korail’s new eviction policy inside Seoul Station early yesterday morning. Korail announced last month that it will no longer allow the homeless to stay inside the station from 1:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. [YONHAP]


Korail began evicting the homeless from Seoul Station on Monday night, a month after announcing it would prohibit them from sleeping inside the city’s main rail station after receiving complaints from travelers.

Few incidents were reported on the first day of the new policy, the national railroad operator said, but about 20 to 30 people who refused to leave gathered in front of the station’s office to protest their eviction.

Dozens of station staff and private security guards formed a barricade to push out the remaining homeless off the station’s premises, amid shouts that their human rights were being violated.

The evicted people soon dispersed, though some did not hide their anger and began wandering outside the station.

One homeless man surnamed Baek, 63, said he had been living in Seoul Station for 16 years and now had nowhere to go.

“I know we are at the very bottom in society, but this is too much.” Baek said angrily. “People told us to sleep at a shelter provided by the Seoul government.

But for an old person like me, it is impossible to use the shelter not only because there are too many people in a limited number of shelters, but also because we can’t occupy the same place as younger and stronger homeless people. It’s tough competition every night, and I can’t take it anymore.”

Korail said that its new policy was to ensure a safe and clean environment for Seoul citizens and that it would continue evicting the homeless from the station if the policy wasn’t followed.

Under the new policy, the approximately 500 homeless people who used to sleep inside Seoul Station are now forbidden from entering the building from 1:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m.

About 100 homeless and civic group members who have protested the policy since last month gathered again on late Monday morning to rally against the evictions, calling the move an infringement of human rights and a threat to the lives of the homeless. That evening, demonstrators held a forum, which they called “Conversations among Eggs,” for the homeless to share their life experiences and to demand that the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Korail retract the new policy and provide alternative sleeping quarters.

There are currently about 50 government-run homeless shelters in Seoul, according to Kim Seon-mi, a social welfare researcher at Sungkyunkwan University. Among them, only one shelter is designated for the elderly, two are designated for the disabled, and only one is designated as a women-only shelter.

“I’m so worried about the elderly because the weather is getting cold,” Kim said. “They might be able to endure the summer, but there is no doubt that they will be the first victims when winter comes. The Seoul Metropolitan Government sometimes opens more shelters during the winter, but it’s not because they care about the homeless. It’s because they don’t want to see dead people on the streets during cold weather. The city should provide actual plans for the homeless because evicting them is only pushing them to the edge of the precipice.”

Since Korail’s plan was announced in July, the National Human Rights Commission has been investigating whether the evictions constitute human rights violations, sending two to three researchers to Seoul Station daily to interview the homeless.

Lee Seong-taek, a researcher with the NHRC, said yesterday that the investigation will be wrapped up by the end of the month, with the results to be announced mid-September.

Regardless of the investigation and protests, Korail said the possibility of withdrawing its new policy was slim.

“Despite the criticism, we think it is also important to provide a safe environment around the station, and there is no doubt that people have the right to use public facilities in better conditions,” said Kim Il-Chun, a facility manager at Seoul Station.

Last month, a Korail survey of 1,000 people found that more than 75 percent of respondents agreed with its new policy while only 5.5 percent of respondents disagreed. Respondents who agreed said the homeless were an eyesore to Seoul Station and complained about the begging, noise, drinking and sexual harassment.


By Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [머니투데이]

강제퇴거 조치 서울역 가보니…`줄어든 노숙인`


22일 오후. 한차례 강제퇴거가 진행된 서울역 노숙인의 수는 크게 줄어 있었다.

출입 가능한 낮시간대였지만 역 안을 한바퀴 둘러봐도 노숙인들의 모습을 여간해선 찾기 어려웠다. 한 두명이 우두커니 서서 오고가는 지하철 이용객들을 바라보고 있을 뿐. 그동안 역사내 구석구석 쓰러진 듯 잠을 청하던 노숙인들을 어렵지 않게 찾아볼 수 있었던 것과는 사뭇 다른 광경이었다.

반면 서울역 광장으로 통하는 지하철 출구 인근에는 화단가나 벤치 등에 수십명의 노숙인들이 모여 앉아 있었다. 평소보다 적은 수였지만, 한 곳에 모여 있어 지하철 출구는 평소보다 붐벼 보였다. 입구 바로 옆에는 꾸깃꾸깃한 돗자리 하나가 뭉쳐져 있었다.

경찰이나 코레일 관계자와 노숙인간 실랑이는 눈에 띄지 않았다. 대부분은 더운 날씨에 지친 모습. 앉은 채 조는 노숙인부터 아예 맨바닥에 누워 잠을 청하는 사람도 있었다.

강제퇴거에 반대하며 농성을 벌이고 있는 `홈리스 행동` 텐트에서 쉬고 있는 5~6명의 노숙인들도 지나가는 이들의 시선에 아랑곳 않고 잠을 청하고 있었다.

광장 한 귀퉁이에는 노숙인들이 삼삼오오 모여 술판을 벌였다. 오후 3시 반, 아직 환한 대낮이지만 벌써 10여병이나 되는 빈 소주병이 앞에 놓여 있었다. 일부 노숙인들은 대로변에 노숙할 때 사용한 것으로 보이는 낡은 옷가지와 담요 더미를 펼쳐 널어 뒀다. 지린내가 진동했다.

광장에서 만난 60대 환경미화원은 "평소보다는 확실히 많이 줄어들었다"며 "많을 때는 몇 백명도 봤는데 다른 곳으로 간 것 같다"고 말했다.

`홈리스행동`은 이날 오전 11시에 `서울역 규탄 기자회견`을 개최했다. 이날 서울경찰청은 노숙인들과 인권단체 상대로 철도공안의 정당한 공무집행을 방해하는 행위를 자제토록 촉구했다.

특히 노숙자 관련 전담대응팀(20명)을 구성해 즉각 출동태세를 구축키로 했다. 112 순찰차와 형사기동대, 경찰관 기동대(1개)를 서울역에 배치해 양측간 마찰에 따른 돌발 상황에 대비할 예정이라고 밝혔다.

코레일은 22일부터 열차 운행을 하지 않는 새벽 1시30분부터 4시30분까지 3시간동안 노숙인들의 서울역 출입을 통제한다고 밝혔다. 이후 시간에는 출입은 자유롭게 할 수 있지만 박스나, 침낭 등을 들고 들어가 노숙을 하는 행위는 전면 금지된다.

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