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Disability rights group pauses subway protests in call for budget increase

Dec. 1, 2023 - 16:27 By Lee Jung-joo
Park Kyeong-seok, head of Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination, attempts to enter Hyehwa Station on Line No. 4 to conduct silent protests for mobility rights for the disabled, Friday. (Newsis)

A disability rights advocacy group said Friday it will temporarily halt subway protests, calling for budget increases to expand mobility rights for individuals with disabilities.

The Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination, one of South Korea's prominent disability rights groups, announced that instead of conducting its regular rush-hour subway protests, it will initiate daily silent protests at Line No. 4's Hyehwa Station starting from Monday.

The temporary suspension will persist until the completion of parliamentary budget deliberations regarding the proposed increase in funding for special transportation services for people with disabilities.

“Our primary goal is to secure mobility rights for people with disabilities,” said Park Kyeong-seok, the head of SADD, to passersby at Hyehwa Station on Friday.

“While initially we requested an increase of 335 billion won ($257 million), it has been reduced, leaving us with only 27.1 billion won. We have opted for silent protests to advocate allocating at least this portion of the budget to our mobility rights.”

Park also asked for the public’s support, saying, “It is not easy to pass the budget without the interest of the citizens.”

SADD has been staging subway protests since December 2021 by repeatedly exiting and entering subways on wheelchairs, demanding increased government funding for the rights of the disabled.

SADD was scheduled to stage their subway protests at 8 a.m. at Hyehwa Station on Friday, which was also changed to a silent protest at the last minute.

However, when 10 SADD activists showed up at the station at 7:50 a.m., they were blocked from entering the subway platforms by Seoul Metro officials, saying that “if two or more people gather with a specific purpose, it is considered as a protest.”

Earlier on Nov. 23, Seoul Metro announced that they would ban all subway protests by SADD and requested for police’s cooperation in blocking off the group’s protests within all subway stations and trains.

In commemoration of the United Nation's International Day of Disabled Persons on Sunday, SADD has been protesting against the discrimination faced by individuals with disabilities since Thursday. The protests have occurred at multiple locations in Seoul, including Line No. 9's National Assembly Station, subway platforms near Line No. 1's City Hall Station, and Marronnier Park.