The 35th Disabled Day Celebration of 2015
Date April 18th, 2015 | Venue Gwanghwamun Square
Honorable citizens, it is a great pleasure to be here today. I am the mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon. It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it? On this warm and beautiful day of spring, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude and welcome to the 2015 Seoul Together Nuri Festival, celebrating the 35th Disabled Day. Also, I congratulate and thank the winners of the Seoul welfare awards for being role models for our society by helping people with warm hearts. And to Chairman Son Yeong-ho of the preparatory committee, those concerned, and volunteers, thank you so much.
Respectable citizens, among the people I admire most is a disabled man named Nick Vujicic, often called the evangelist of happiness from Australia. He was born with a rare disorder characterized by the absence of legs and arms, and yet he views the world with the warmest heart and a sound mind, giving hope to the disabled as well as the non-disabled. He said, “No flower or tree in the world is perfect. We all are beautiful because we all look different.”
I think all of you here, the disabled and non-disabled, are beautiful; none of us are perfect, and yet we are all unique in this world.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is therefore striving to build a beautiful Seoul, where all of us live happy lives together. Above all, under the principle that the body might be disabled but life should not be, we are trying to create a society where disabilities are not disabilities any more.
The “Seoul Disabled Rights Enhancement Master Plan,” announced in February, will be the starting point. We will increase the personnel in the Seoul Human Rights Center for the Disabled to support counseling, legal affairs, mediation, arbitration, and welfare services. We will also strengthen cooperation with institutions that deal with individuals with disabilities, such as police and autonomous districts, so that the disabled do not suffer violations of their human rights.
We are implementing projects for those with developmental disorders who need special care. In the Happy Plus Developmental Disorder Center, which was opened in February, approximately 60 patients are preparing for their independent lives in warm and loving care. Later this year, we will pilot the Lifelong Education Center for the Developmentally Disabled, and expand it in the future.
The Samsung Development Center in Children’s Hospital, which is under construction in cooperation with the Samsung Group to open in 2017, is expected to hugely reduce the regrettable instances of patients missing their opportunities to receive timely treatment due to long waitlists. In addition, in November of this year, the Developmentally Disabled Rights and Support Act will be enacted. We will prepare thoroughly so the law can be implemented and enforced as planned.
The best way to improve the quality of life of the disabled and assist their active economic activities and social participation is to secure jobs for them. The Seoul Government will take the lead and secure approximately 3,000 public service jobs in the government and its affiliated institutions for the disabled. Additionally, around 1,500 jobs will be created in the private sector through The Disabled Job Fair. This will result in the creation of 4,500 jobs in total for the disabled. Hopefully you will agree that it is a good start.
Distinguished citizens, a lot of heartbreaking events happened last year, one of which was the death of Song Guk-hyeon, who passed away at the scene of a fire due to a lack of assistant personnel. To prevent such tragedies from ever happening again, we will strengthen the disabled care service. From February, the assistance time has increased from 19 hours to 24 hours a day for 100 disabled who need all-day care. We are also expanding travel support for the caregivers of the severely handicapped so that the families that take care of the disabled can take some time off to go get recharged.
I think we still have a long way to go, however. The government is putting in a great amount of effort to take the lead in making our society and the world at large different from the past, but we are still far short of that goal. It is a long journey, but we have to keep moving forward. I want to walk along the way with you. Even though we cannot reach the goal overnight, if we walk step by step together, we will someday be able to reach the end of the road as we hope.
“I could not be a woman. I could not be an African American either. But I could be disabled,” a renowned columnist in the US said. We all might be able to relate to that phrase.
Honorable citizens, the disabled, and non-disabled, disabilities are not something special. A disability could happen to anyone, anytime. If we stay together just like today, here at “Seoul Together Nuri Festival,” we will be able to build a world where the disabled and non-disabled get along together without discrimination, everyone can follow their dreams, and every one of us can enjoy life without discrimination and grow together as proud citizens. We will be able to build another world, different from this world, as we dream.
Even if the way is rough and daunting, if we all stay together, we will never be lonely or exhausted. Everyone, let’s go together. Be together. Seoul and I will lead the way. Thank you very much.