A South Korean ruling party politician is taking heat from activists after making controversial remarks regarding the physically and mentally disabled. Lee Hae-chan, chairman of the Democratic Party and a former prime minister under President Roh Moo-hyun, has denigrated South Korea's disabled community by calling them "weak-willed," the KOFOD(Korea Federation of Organizations of the Disabled) said Friday, according to the Hankook Ilbo.
The activists said Lee's comments demonstrate a pattern of consistent discrimination toward the disabled. "The continued remarks from Rep. Lee that discriminate against the disabled that began in December 2018 provoke the disabled community," the group told reporters Friday. "To say that you'll apologize 'if [the disabled] are hurt' is clearly mockery." Earlier in the week, Lee had said "if [the disabled] have been hurt" by his remarks, he is "then sorry," suggesting his apology was being offered conditionally, according to Yonhap.
Controversy began after Lee's party uploaded a video segment to YouTube introducing Choi Hye-young, an academic invited to join the ruling progressives ahead of general elections in April. Lee had said, "People born with disability are rather weak-willed because they have been like that since they were young. But in the case of people becoming disabled from accidents after growing up, they know the normal life they used to have."
Choi was paralyzed following an automobile accident in 2003, but went onto obtain advanced graduate degrees in social work. On Friday activists said Lee has violated laws against discrimination, and that Lee was unfairly differentiating between people with acquired and congenital disabilities.
Lee first came under fire in late 2018 for slandering the disabled. "There are so many mentally disabled people in the political arena, I wonder whether if there are any normal people around," Lee had said. Lee and his rivals in the opposition Liberty Korea Party are preparing to face off in the April election for 300 seats in the National Assembly.