After a few years of struggles for the enactment of legislation against discrimination on the basis of disability, led by self-advocacy groups of persons with disabilities and other civil society organizations in South Korea, the extraordinary session of the National Assembly passed the Act on the Prohibition of Disability Discrimination and the Provision of Remedies on 6 March 2007.
According to the website of the National Assembly[Korean], the number of persons with disabilities increased to 2.15 million in 2005 from 1.45 million in 2000, especially among elder women. They have increasingly demanded for more opportunities of social participation, including through the recognition of the rights to education and mobility; the independent living movement have been expanded as well. On the other hand, many cases of human rights violations have continued, such as discrimination, increased difficulties in transportation and abuses in welfare institutions. The purpose of the new Act is to enable the government, in collaboration with the private sector and civil society, to formulate relevant policies by prohibiting disability discrimination and providing remedies for human rights abuses, with a view to responding to changing situations of persons with disabilities.
The draft bill had been submitted to the National Assembly three times since 2005 and, this time, was proposed by the Chairperson of the Committee on Health and Welfare of the National Assembly. The bill was adopted by an overwhelming majority; among 197 parliamentarians who were present at the time of voting, 196 voted in favor and 1 abstained.
The Disability Discrimination Acts Solidarity in Korea (DDASK)[Korean], the leading organization in the movement for legislation, was formed in 2003 by bringing together self-advocacy groups, which had called for anti-discrimination legislation for persons with disabilities, and other civil society organizations that had supported the initiative. The DDASK demands specific legislation prohibiting disability discrimination as well as a separate body for correcting such discrimination. Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Korea had taken more than three years to prepare a draft bill of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, including discrimination against persons with disabilities, and recommended the government to adopt it in July 2006. Disability organizations have expressed concern about the draft. In its press release, the NHRC explains that the draft bill is general in its nature, not covering all categories of discrimination on the basis of disability, and that it does not exclude the application of the Act on the Prohibition of Disability Discrimination.
The Act is to come into force one year after the date of promulgation. In accordance with the schedules, the Act will be enforced on a phase-by-phase basis; details are to be provided in presidential decrees for the implementation.
· National Assembly of the Republic of Korea [Korean]
· Disability Discrimination Acts Solidarity in Korea (DDASK) [Korean]
· Disabled People International Korea [Korean/English]
See also: National Human Rights Commission of Korea, "Welcoming the Passage by the National Assembly of the Disability Discrimination Act"