Leading candidates in the country's upcoming presidential election pledged to increase spending for people with disabilities Thursday, marking the locally observed Day of People with Disability.
Moon Jae-in, the presidential candidate of the liberal Democratic Party, noted that government spending for people with physical and mental disabilities accounted for only 0.61 percent of the country's gross domestic product in 2013, far lower than the OECD average of 2.1 percent that same year.
A ceremony marking the Day of People with Disability is under way in downtown Seoul on April 19, 2017. (Yonhap)
"I will gradually expand the government budget for people with disabilities each year to prepare for a rise in spending," said Moon. The liberal presidential hopeful currently enjoys a lead over all other contenders in the May 9 election.
"I will increase government spending to create a barrier-free environment for people with disabilities," Moon was quoted as saying by his election camp.
The presidential front-runner did not elaborate on how much government spending will increase under his administration.
Ahn Cheol-soo, the presidential nominee of the center-left People's Party, also unveiled plans to improve welfare for the disabled.
During a meeting with representatives of disabled people's groups, he pledged to scrap the current system that divides disabled people into six groups depending on the seriousness of their physical or mental disability. The system has been criticized for denying sufficient government support to those who need more because they are categorized into a lower than necessary group.
"I will get rid of the uniform grading system of the disabled and provide tailored services depending on their individual desires and needs," Ahn said.
The former software mogul, who is seen as the biggest challenge to Moon, also vowed to push for legislation to prevent a recurrence of the 2014 incident in which two disabled people were rescued from a salt farm where they had been working as slaves.
Ahn promised to conduct a survey of the human rights situation of disabled people every three years, announce the results, and set up centers tasked with protecting the human rights of the disabled as well as taking care of victims of abuse with disabilities.
"I'm sure there are many people who have various talents but are unable to display them simply because they have a disability," Ahn said. "I am certain that we must become a society where (the disabled) are judged fairly without discrimination and with equal opportunities."
Yoo Seong-min of the splinter conservative Bareun Party, on the other hand, was more specific, vowing to boost government spending to 1.5 percent of the country's GDP, and eventually to 2.2 percent, which he said was the OECD average now.
The conservative candidate also promised more jobs and better working conditions for the disabled, noting they are currently not even protected under the law that guarantees minimum wage.
He said he will work to expand the job quota for people with disabilities at each workplace to 5 percent. (Yonhap)