SEOUL, April 17 (Korea Bizwire) — Despite passing disability discrimination laws 40 years ago, critics say South Korea needs to do more to ensure the right of disabled people to travel.
A number of human rights activists gathered in Seoul today to discuss the rights of disabled people at a forum organized by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, during which the panel called for the government to put greater effort into ensuring mobility rights for the disabled.
The leader of the Korea Network for Accessible Tourism, Jeon Yoon-seon, started the discussion off with an opening speech, saying, “As disabled people are living more independently, their needs are becoming more individual than collective. But South Korea’s tourism industry is not favorable to the disabled.”
“The United Nations’ World Tourism Organization has previously urged countries to do more to provide ‘tourism for everyone’, emphasizing the right to travel among the disabled and seniors,” Jeon pointed out during the forum, marking the 10th anniversary of the Anti-Discrimination Against and Remedies for Persons with Disabilities Act.
Kim Seong-yeon, the secretary-general of the Disability Discrimination Acts Solidarity in Korea said the right to travel was not a priority back in 2007 when the act was passed, when more pressing issues faced disabled people in South Korea, such as securing the basic necessities of life like food, clothing and shelter.
“As of 2015, most non-disabled people had traveled before, excluding just 10 percent. On the contrary, only 9.8 percent of disabled people had traveled. The figures really paint a grim picture of the reality,” Kim said.
Jeong Ho-kyun, an official responsible for disability policy at the National Human Rights Commission of Korea acknowledged the loopholes in the current disability discrimination act.
“Though the recently amended disability discrimination laws cite that the central government, local governments, and even tourism companies are obliged to provide services to the disabled, there is no obligation to provide accessibility to facilities. We will consider policy recommendations to revise the legislation,” Jeong said.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)