-A scene from the movie, "Oasis":
Jong-du and Gong-ju were dating and Gong-ju said to Jong-du, "I am hungry." When they visit a restaurant, there were a lot of unoccupied seats. When they came into, the host suddenly said, "Sorry, the shop is closed." Jong-du said with a look of displeasure on his face, "Ok, We will not eat in here!" Why were they not permitted to enter the restaurant? Because Gong-ju is a disabled person.
The Korean movie "Oasis," directed by Lee Chang-dong and starring Sol Kyung-gu and Moon So-ri, was widely praised by critics in Korea and grabbed five glorious awards including the director's award and the best actress award in the 59th Venice Film Festival. "Oasis" is a love story between a released convict and a disabled woman suffering from cerebral infantile paralysis. Hong Jong-du has nothing but his kind heart, a heart too kind to live in this merciless world. And Han Gong-ju can not move herself without someone's help. Through this story of the two social outcasts, viewers can ponder the value of innocence in modern society.
However, let's think about the story from a different view. If the main characters of "Oasis" are not a man and a woman who belong to social minority, is it possible that an audience would be interested in this movie? Moon So-ri, who played the part of Gong-ju well, said in her acceptance speech at the Venice Film Festival, I feel like I can overcome any difficulty in the world, knowing there is a big and beautiful reward like this in the end. Unfortunately, real life is not what she thinks.
"I Want to Be a Badly Disabled Person," recently published by Sam-in, provides a sharp insight into the discrimination against physically handicapped people. Ten authors are participating in a project to improve thinking about the disabled and improve the infrastructure around them. The authors feel that Koreans don't have sufficient insight into real state of the disabled.
The book is systematic and analytic rather than a common view of the disabled. However, what is most interesting is that they point out some serious facts that we usually don't notice. For example, there are "Sexual harassment of disabled women" and "Mobility rights of the disabled." Through these subjects, the writers want to fundamentally change people's perception of the disabled and discrimination against them.
In this book, we come across many examples of sexual harassment toward disabled persons. Even though they are just suffering physically, ordinary people do not see them that way. The problem is that disabled women do not claim their human rights. Although they did, they wouldn't know how to fight against sexually violent crimes, such as rape.
The ten authors also raised a question about the mobility rights of the disabled. The current transportation system's infrastructure for the disabled is woefully insufficient. The recent accident of an elderly disabled person, Yun jae-bong, is a good example.
Yun Jae-bong, 62 was killed in a fall from a wheelchair lift at Subway line 5, Balsan station, on May 19th. Mr. Yun was ascending from the station's entry level to the street level. A ramp that folds open to allow wheelchairs to roll onto the lift and then must be raised to prevent them from moving backward either was lowered or failed. Mr. Yun and his chair toppled backward and he was killed when his head struck the concrete stairs.
Seoul City, not Mr. Yun, is responsible. A majority of the wheelchair lifts run by Seoul City for handicapped people have been in service for about a year without having undergone mandatory safety inspections. Out of a total of 587 wheelchair lifts for 98 disabled people that were fitted before Oct 19th of last year, a mere 51 have so far been tested. Only 23 of the 51 lifts have passed safety checks. The current transportation system for the disabled is not a matter of convenience but of survival.
"We want a public apology and for the city to acknowledge the problems of the current facilities. They must set up plans to guarantee the safety of disabled persons and put those plans into action with citizen supervision," said Eum Tae-sun, the administrative director of the Solidarity for the Mobility Rights of the Disabled.
A disability is not a fault. The disabled were born with their handicapped bodies or through various accidents. The disabled are not aliens but our neighbors who live with us. We don't have the right to discriminate against them. But there exist a lot of discrimination against them in the real world.
If you don't agree with me, read, I Want to Be a Bad Disabled Person. It will change your mind.
Park Min-hee firstname.lastname@example.org
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