Advocates Protested Efforts To Overturn 1913 Blind Massage Worker
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 18, 2006
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA--Attempts to overturn a 93-year-old law, which gives blind South Koreans exclusive rights to perform massages for a living, have resulted in legal battles, street protests, and two deaths.
Since 1913, only blind people have been allowed to register as massage workers in South Korea. Because of the law, the country's estimated 6,000 certified blind massage workers earn enough money to live independently, while most other blind people rely on government assistance, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Advocates for the estimated 300,000 sighted massage workers, who are performing massages illegally, complain that the law discriminates against them. And in May of this year, the country's Constitutional Court agreed to strike down the law.
Hundreds of blind activists and their allies reportedly took to the streets in response to the ruling, gathering daily to demonstrate in front of the National Assembly in Seoul. Some banged their white canes in protest. Others leapt from buildings and onto subway tracks. Two of them died before lawmakers finally restored the protections in August.
The debate appears to be far from over, however. The National Commission for Human Rights has not taken a position on the law, while some blind advocates contend that the law actually limits their opportunities.
"In South Korea, blind fighting to keep exclusive rights to massage work" (Los Angeles Times via Austin American-Statesman)