Korea’s first blind lawyer fights for rights

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Korea’s first blind lawyer fights for rights


Kim Jae-wang

Attending a top-tier law school comes with a long list of challenges, but when Kim Jae-wang entered Seoul National University in 2009, his list contained one more than most: he’s blind in both eyes.

When he graduated in 2012, he became the first blind lawyer in Korea. However, he’s quick to correct those who congratulate him on “overcoming” anything.

“If a disabled person succeeds in something, most people say the person ‘overcame his or her disability.’ However, the disability still remains. Disabilities are not something we should overcome - they are things that the disabled and society should adapt to.”

The 37-year-old is now an active member of the civil rights lawyers’ group “Law That Creates Hope,” which pursues the public interest by advocating for the rights of minorities. He’s also a public speaker and will be giving lectures on the theme of “diversity of disabilities and juridical support for the disabled” until December at 11 courts around the country.

Kim was born blind in his right eye and later lost sight in his left eye due to a shrunken optic nerve.

His vision problems proved a big issue when he took the law school admissions test in 2008. Although he was provided with an exam in braille and with enlarged letters, he couldn’t read as fast as he needed to because he hadn’t grown up reading braille.

Kim asked the Korean Association of Law Schools to provide a computer that reads questions aloud and went on to pass the test. The experience informed his belief that disabilities are something that everyone must adapt to.

“My disability hasn’t changed, but being given options has changed my life. The disabled and society should adjust to each other.”

BY KIM SUN-MI [koo.yurim@joongang.co.kr]
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