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Disability groups suspend subway protests calling to improve the right to travel

By Yim Hyun-su

Published : Feb. 24, 2022 - 16:33

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Presidential candidate Sim Sang-jung of the minor opposition Justice Party visits a subway protest staged by the Solidarity against Disability Discrimination at Seoul Station on Wednesday. (The Justice Party) Presidential candidate Sim Sang-jung of the minor opposition Justice Party visits a subway protest staged by the Solidarity against Disability Discrimination at Seoul Station on Wednesday. (The Justice Party)
Groups representing people with disabilities have announced they have stopped subway protests which went on for weeks after being acknowledged by presidential candidate Sim Sang-jung of the minor opposition Justice Party during a recent TV debate.

During a TV debate earlier this week, Sim dedicated her last minute to the protestors.

“Disabled people are protesting on the subway every morning, urging for a budget for their rights to travel.

Members of the Solidarity against Disability Discrimination stage a protest at Suwon Station on Tuesday.(Yonhap) Members of the Solidarity against Disability Discrimination stage a protest at Suwon Station on Tuesday.(Yonhap)
“Though many citizens who commute on the subway every morning have complained, the blame is on the politicians who can’t even ensure the right to travel for the disabled despite being the 10th largest economy, not those protesting,” she said, adding she would secure the budget.

In a statement, the Solidarity against Disability Discrimination said they would suspend the protests as requested by Sim. The group has also called on other presidential candidates to address this issue during the next TV debate which is scheduled on March 2.

“We plead to presidential candidates Lee Jae-myung, Yoon Suk-yeol and Ahn Cheol-soo to promise us during the TV debate on social issues on the second of March that they would ensure the disabled’s right to travel and protect their rights through a budget,” the group said.

The group said the protests would be resumed if the issue does not get addressed during the TV debate.

The move comes after weeks of protests that have disrupted operations during the morning rush hour.

The series of protests saw Seoul Metro tweet multiple warnings to commuters in recent weeks, prompting both support and criticism from disgruntled commuters and those showing solidarity towards the protestors.

Over 2,500 complaints were filed against the rush-hour protests as of Feb. 17, according to Seoul Metro. Some 4,700 requests were filed to get a fare refund.

“A train was once delayed for over two hours, causing a great deal of inconvenience to citizens,” Seoul Metro said.

Emotions ran high during the protests with some angry commuters hurling verbal abuse at the protestors.

The Solidarity against Disability Discrimination said the Seoul Metropolitan Government has yet to deliver on the promise it made in 2015 to install an elevator in every subway station in the city by 2022.

“We have been shouting for nearly 21 years since the stair lift accident at Oido Station in 2001. But there has been a failure to ensure the rights to travel for the disabled,” the group said.