SUWON, Sept. 6 (Korea Bizwire) — A South Korean disability rights group has ended its five-year long protest at Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul after the health and welfare minister met with the protesters and finally agreed to make it easier for the disabled to claim benefits despite the income of their legal provider.
A group of disability activists cheered on their achievement after 1,842 days of protest, to be exact, at the heart of the South Korean capital on Tuesday, as the Ministry of Health and Welfare agreed to gradually do away with the controversial requirements that have made it extremely hard for those with financial supporters to claim disability benefits despite not receiving any actual help.
The collective action against a number of the country’s controversial disability policies such as the grade system based on the severity of one’s disability and qualification for disability benefits being dependent on the income of family members began in August 2012 with the support of 228 disability and human rights groups and organizations, before finally coming to an end yesterday after over five years.
With a commitment from Park Neung-hoo, the minister of Health and Welfare, the Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination, the governing body of the protest, decided to withdraw from Gwanghwamun Square, on the day coinciding with the group’s 10th anniversary.
Among those who took part in the demonstrations that went on for years, some were seen shouting with joy while others were seen teary-eyed during the screening of a movie showing the progress they have made.
Lawmaker Yun So-ha, who is also a member of the National Assembly Health and Welfare Committee, visited the site to lend support and praised Park’s decision.
“Minister Park has the right view on disability and poverty. I will both hold him accountable and help him deliver on his promises,” Yun said.
According to the National Basic Living Security Act, the legitimacy to claim disability benefits strangely depends on the income of the legal supporters of disabled members of society, which means, without providing proof such as official documents to show that their supporters are either abroad, serving in the military or in jail, disabled people with family members weren’t able to claim benefits.
Under the current law, those with disabilities who aren’t alone have had to take the extreme measure of cutting legal ties with their family members to be able to claim disability benefits, a policy many critics slammed as ‘cruel’ and ‘inconsiderate’.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)