17 January 2023
Lawmakers and activists urged the government to support the deinstitutionalization ― the gradual relocation to regular, community-based housing ― of people with disabilities so that ultimately all people with disabilities can freely choose how, where and with whom they live.
Rep. Jang Hye-yeong of the minor progressive Justice Party, Rep. Kang Min-jung of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and activists from 13 civic groups held a press conference on Monday where they announced that they will request the U.N. Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities to conduct an ex officio investigation of Korea’s policies concerning the institutionalization of people with disabilities in residential facilities.
The activists and lawmakers believe Korea’s policies on residential policies violate the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), which the country ratified last year. They said they will request the U.N. committee to issue policy recommendations to the Korean government through the ex officio investigation.
Previously, Hungary received a policy recommendation from the committee via an ex officio investigation. In response, the European country announced a policy improvement plan for its residential facilities for people with disabilities in 2020.
According to the latest government statistics, Korea has 1,539 residential facilities housing 29,086 individuals with disabilities. An average of 4.7 people live together in the same room for about 18.9 years, according to a comprehensive study of these facilities conducted in 2020 by Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination (SADD). One employee looks after 13 to 15 residents at these facilities at night on average, according to the study.
In response, the Ministry of Health and Welfare presented the country’s 2021 roadmap for deinstitutionalization and self-support assistance for people with disabilities.
However, the roadmap has been criticized by activists and lawmakers for covering only 18.5 percent of the population with disabilities. Also, the government’s national budget for deinstitutionalization is only 4.8 billion won ($3,890), which is only 0.76 percent of the total 629 billion won budgeted for residential facilities.
Shin Yu-da, a disability activist who has a disability and lived at a residential facility for seven years between 2012 and 2019, shared his experience of deinstitutionalization with the help of advocacy groups. He said he earned the freedom to pursue his own life since moving into “independent living housing,” a type of housing for those with disabilities who are transitioning from institutionalized residential facilities to living independently in the community.
Shin underscored the need for policy improvements to enhance the lives of people with disabilities.
The coalition also voiced support for the passing of the deinstitutionalization support bill, which was introduced by Rep. Choi Hye-young of the DPK in December 2020. #