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Group denounces Lee Hae-chan’s remarks about people with disabilities, calls for his resignation

Despite Democratic Party leader Lee Hae-chan’s apology for an inappropriate remark about people with disabilities, critics continue to call for his resignation.

Incorporated Korea Family Association for the Mentally Disabled held a press conference Monday and urged Lee to step down from his position.

“Lee’s remarks suggested that mentally disabled people are abnormal, and they are more pitiful than physically disabled people,” said Cho Sun-deuk, the chairman of the organization.

“The remark shows his discriminatory thoughts about mentally disabled people. We doubt such a person is qualified to lead a political party.”

Democratic Party leader Lee Hae-chan (Yonhap)
Democratic Party leader Lee Hae-chan (Yonhap)

Lee again apologized for the remark on Monday during the meeting of the Democratic Party Supreme Council at the National Assembly.

On Friday, Lee delivered a congratulatory address at the opening ceremony of the Democratic National Committee for the Disabled in Yeouido, Seoul.

“There are many disabled people living in Korea, more than we think. Of course, many people are born with disabilities, but I am sometimes surprised to see so many people who acquired disabilities later in their lives. The more pitiful people than the physically disabled are … ” Lee started to say, but soon corrected himself by saying “I misspoke.”

Lee then said, “We need to think about mentally disabled people. There are many people with psychological disabilities in the political arena, making me doubt whether they are normal.”

The remark instantly sparked a public outcry, with many accusing Lee of humiliating people with mental and psychiatric disabilities. Lee issued an official apology Friday night.

“I didn’t mean to degrade the disabled, and I agree that the remark can be misunderstood by disabled people and their families. I am deeply sorry,” Lee said.

Lee added the comparison had been intended to refer to politicians who spread fake news via YouTube and other social networking platforms.

Last month, Lee faced criticism after making a sexist comment about Vietnamese women. During a meeting at the National Assembly with a high-level Vietnamese delegation, Lee said, “Many Korean men marry Vietnamese women as they prefer them over women from other countries.”

By Park Ju-young (