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We brought a number of lawsuits against public targets on behalf of people with disabilities. One such case was an action brought against the city of Seoul for failing to provide adequate access to persons with physical disabilities to the Cheonggyechon (stream) area, such as wheelchair accessible paths, ramps leading to the stream, and safe walkways for the visually-impaired. Asserting violations of the equal rights provisions in Korea's Constitution as well as various access to transportation laws, we were able to obtain a groundbreaking award for damages for the five plaintiffs - three with physical disabilities and two with visual impairments.
A civil action against an insurance company brought on behalf of children with disabilities and their parents for the company’s denial of travel insurance coverage to the plaintiff children. We obtained an award for damages from the company, but perhaps more significantly, we also pushed for amendments to national insurance laws that could potentially affect thousands of people. The proposed amendments are currently before the legislature.
As part of our legal reform efforts in this field, we continue to attend public hearings and seminars as well as conduct research and surveys concerning the plight of disabled persons.
In 2006, we provided a series of legal workshops for groups advocating rights for persons with disabilities on issues related to access to justice in criminal, civil, administrative, constitutional, and human rights law. We prepared and distributed a comprehensive legal manual at the workshops that continues to be a highly useful resource for activists.

We believe that raising public awareness and encouraging debate will accelerate change to improve the lives of people with disabilities. In that vein, we regularly appeared on a panel advocating human rights for people with disabilities on a weekly KBS radio program called "Living Together in our World".
Together with interested groups, we pushed for, and successfully saw, the enactment of the Act concerning Anti-Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities. We also obtained revision of the Act for the Welfare of Persons with Disabilities, and helped set up guidelines for judicial enforcement under the Act.

Identifying a new area in need of improvement in the protection of rights, we drafted and proposed a special Act concerning Persons with Developmental Disabilities, with enforcement provisions for guardianship of such persons.

As part of our legal reform efforts in this field, we continue to attend public hearings and seminars as well as conduct research and surveys concerning the plight of disabled persons.
The Abolition of Mental Health Act and Guarantee of Rights, What should we do? - Reviews of the policy forum 2014.06.03 11:06 5178
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On March 28 2014, the policy forum on abolition of the Metal Health Act and guarantee of rights was held in the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. This policy forum was created after the Constitutional Court rejected the adjudication on the constitutionality of an article 24 of the Mental Health Act, which is about involuntary admission, to discuss the issue.


During the policy forum, HyungGuk Yeom of Gonggam gave the keynote address on the direction for revision of the Mental Health Act. Next, JungHa Lee of Padoson(Cooperative Association of Culture and Arts), delivered a speech on emergency medical care and treatment desired by person obliged.  Rakwoo Kim, the member of the People’s Solidarity for Living Rights of the Mentally Disabled, took the role of third speaker and delivered a speech on social and vocational rehabilitation and recovery of mental disorder. In succession, MinSun Park and SangEun Lee of Korean Alliance on Mental Illness(hereafter KAMI) delivered a speech on personal assistance system for the mentally disabled and returning to the community. Last was HwanGap Park of KAMI, who discussed his view on the meaning of the Mental Health Act from the perspective of family of the mentally disabled.


The process of involuntarily hospitalizing the patients in the mental hospital is merciless. In this process, patients have been throttled and tied up. Moreover, some of them were being handcuffed by people who broke into their house through window. Inhumane and violent treatment of patients is an urgent problem.


Section 1 of Article 24 of Mental Health Act

The hospital may accept a patient with the consent of two people legally responsible for the protection of the patient (consent of a person can be accepted if the patient has only one person responsible for protection). The diagnoses of a psychiatrist should be accompanied. In the case, the people responsible for the protection of the patient should submit the consent form of hospitalization of the patient, which is issued by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and the document proving that they are legally responsible for the protection of the patient.


Through this section of the law, the patient can be involuntarily hospitalized with the consent of two people, who are legally responsible for the protection of the patient, and a psychiatrist. In other words, private agents can restrict a person without any intervention of the public agents. It is certain that this section is violating the principle of due process of law which requires the warrant of a judge.


The mentally disabled are experiencing violent and cruel treatment by the hospital personnel on the excuse of creating secure medical conditions. Other flagrant abuse of human rights such as prohibiting patients from receiving an outside examination and cutting off their communication with outside without consent are being committed in the hospitals.


"I am in the process of filing for divorce. I filed for divorce on April 26th 2011 since my husband was insincere and he did not give me any cost of living. On May 10th, my husband told me to go to the court so I came out from my house. However, there was a car from Ilsan Mental Hospital. Then I was forced into the car and involuntarily hospitalized. I told the doctor that we are in the process of filing for divorce, but the doctor said "I told your husband to discharge you from the hospital, but he did not listen. You should be here for few days".

-Casebook of National Human Rights Counseling (2011)


Under the existing Mental Health Act, people with mental disease who are doing well in the society and even people without mental disease can be involuntarily hospitalized. However, the government is disregarding this situation and people also are ignoring this problem since they think it is not an issue for them.


National Human Rights Commission Webzine- Italy, where mental hospital does not exist http://www.humanrights.go.kr/hrmonthly/view.jsp?no_idx=13718&article_idx=13733&sub_category=AA&pagenum=6

(In 1978, 'The Basaglia Law' which contained directives for the closing down of all psychiatric hospitals was established in Italy. In 1998, every psychiatric hospital closed down and community-based services replaced their place. Since they focused more on 'treatment' rather than 'hospitalization', the possibility of infringement of human rights has been significantly decreased.)



Personal Assistance System for the Mentally disabled


It is also important to establish accessible personal assistance policy and the decision-making assistance policy for the mentally disabled. However, there is a lack of understanding of the personal assistance policy for the mentally disabled. Specialized educational program regarding this issue should be made and human rights movement for the mentally disabled should be activated.


The Meaning of the Mental Health Act from the position of Family of the mentally disabled


When the patients get the diagnosis from a doctor that in order to make a complete recovery from their disease they need long-term hospitalization in a secluded ward, their family often treat them as invisible men and sometimes do not take their disease seriously. Families of the mentally disabled also show hostility toward the patients by forcing them to be confined in the hospital. However, they cannot be simply stereotyped as a perpetrator considering the prejudice, feeling of pressure, and sense of guilt they have to endure through their life.


Even though there are pros and cons regarding unconstitutionality suit on the Mental Health Act among families, they would have same wish that their beloved family member could get better treatment in better conditions.



The purpose of Mental Health Law is to improve mental health of people by enacting provisions which is essential for preventing mental illness and enhancing rehabilitation of the mentally ill. Continuous attention from the nation and local government toward the application of this law is essential. Moreover, people should overcome the prejudice that the mentally disabled should get quarantine treatment. Social efforts to provide the mentally disabled with treatment and rehabilitation in the community level is important as well. Tendency not to consider this issue as their own should be rejected because this can happen to anyone in anytime. It is time for every member of society to put forth a multilateral effort in solving this issue.


By Joo Yeon, Kim


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