Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon appealed to the public Thursday to put aside selfish interests and support the construction of schools for handicapped students wherever they are necessary following a sensational photo showing parents of students with disabilities kneeling before opponents and begging for support.
It was the scene of a meeting of residents held in a western Seoul neighborhood early this month to discuss a proposal to build a school for handicapped students in their neighborhood. As many residents opposed the idea, parents of handicapped children came forward and begged for support on their knees.
Such schools and other facilities for the disabled have been shunned by residents due in part to the perception that they would drag the value of their houses down. Residents in the photo demanded that an oriental medicine hospital be built at the site as a lawmaker of the area promised.
Parents of handicapped students kneel before residents of a Seoul neighborhood to call for support for the construction of a school for disabled children. (Yonhap)
"One photo reported in the press a few days ago aroused shame among members of our society," Lee said during a weekly government policy coordination meeting. "This mother must have gone through enormous despair and pain since the birth of her child. We gave her additional pain as the community was unable to accommodate a school that her child could go to."
Lee said residents could have put the handicapped students' right to education behind their house prices. He added that studies have found that house prices are unaffected by whether or not schools for the disabled are in their neighborhood.
"I appeal to the people for help so that we can build as many special schools for handicapped children as necessary," Lee said.
"I hope the education ministry and other related agencies should connect sincerely with residents so as to beef up special schools."
Lee also called for public corporations and agencies to increase the hiring of the disabled. (Yonhap)