Minister treated disabled charges like dogs: Report

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Minister treated disabled charges like dogs: Report

A minister who runs a home for the mentally disabled in Sinan County, South Jeolla was accused of cruelly mistreating inmates by the National Human Rights Commission Wednesday, including locking them overnight in a kennel with dogs for disobeying him. Of 36 disabled people living in the facility, four were minors.

The commission held a press conference yesterday in Seoul and described awful conditions at the facility, forced labor and misappropriation of funds. It has reported the head of the facility to prosecutors and requested that supervisory agencies shut the facility down.

The commission launched an investigation after a report in July that two disabled people were abused at the facility in a case that is being called another “Dogani.”

“Dogani,” or “The Crucible,” was a 2011 film describing sexual abuse at a school for the hearing impaired in Gwangju.

The center in Sinan County was a residential and rehabilitation facility for people with mental disabilities.

According to the investigation, the head of the facility, a 62-year-old minister, chained residents, beat them and forced them to do labor without pay.

When residents tried to escape or disobeyed his orders, he sometimes locked them in a kennel overnight with dogs after the employees of the facility had gone home, the report said.

He also smacked them with a 60-centimeter (23.6-inch) bamboo stick on the soles of their feet, the commission said.

If they disobeyed him, he told the other residents to pin down the person being disciplined, saying, “Hold down the legs.”

The minister is also accused of shackling eight disabled people with 2-meter (6.6-foot) chains and ankle cuffs because they tried to leave the facility, caused fights or just for sucking on their fingers. They were forced to eat and sleep in the shackles, the report said.

The commission said three disabled residents were forced to work in fields since 2011 cultivating garlic, beans and onions without pay.

The minister also made his charges repair and renovate his house last year.

The commission said that eight people registered as less seriously disabled, who should have been rehabilitated, were forced to live with 28 more seriously disabled inmates. This caused friction that sometimes led to violence. But according to the report, the head of the facility “just looked on without doing anything even when one disabled person had a a jaw bone broken because of a fight, and didn’t take him to the hospital.”

To manage the facility, the minister received a subsidy of 232 million won ($209,536) since 2013.

The commission said some of this money was misappropriated and used to purchase religious books and other things unrelated to the welfare of the residents.

The commission added that the county office was aware of the human rights abuses at the facility since 2011 “but did not take the appropriate measures.”

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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