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Challenges faced by parents with handicapped children in Korea

Challenges faced by parents with handicapped children in Korea

Posted September. 11, 2017 07:49,   

Updated September. 11, 2017 08:15


This writer saw "angels" at Hangil School, a special school in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province last summer. Children with intellectual disability are angels due to their inherent innocence because they cannot conduct bad behaviors nor can they conceive maliciously things. Children at the facility have diverse forms of disabilities. Patients of Down’s syndrome, autism and general developmental disorder all cannot survive without help from others. For this reason, handicapped children have the right to get higher quality education than normal children. But the reality is hardly the case in Korea.

As many as 88,000 students across the country need special education, but only 25,000 of them are attending special schools. Those students who cannot afford special schools go to ordinary schools, but they are often kicked out due to failure to adapt themselves to school environment. They have few schools to attend. The situation is particularly serious in Seoul. As there are only 29 special schools in Seoul and eight districts in Seoul have no single special school, students with disabilities have to spend three to four hours daily commuting to school in a neighboring district. To their parents, taking their children with disabilities to and from school is a major struggle.

During a public hearing of local residents on Tuesday last week, more than 20 mothers with handicapped children kneeled down to local residents who opposed construction of a special school at the site of Gongjin Elementary School in Gayang-dong in Seoul’s Gangseo district. A video clip of the scene that went viral in social media displayed the pitiful face of our society that fails to embrace not only a school of handicapped children, but also pain of those parents. Most of the mothers including Jang Min-hee who were on their knees cannot even send their children to the school even if a special school is established there because their children are already in higher grades. The parents showed their wish that other children with disabilities can benefit from the school.

According to a survey of parents who have children with disabilities, living as parents with handicapped children in Korea is no better than a divine punishment. Not only they find it difficult to accept that they gave birth to handicapped children and suffer from stress due to childrearing and financial problems, but they also have to often experience disparaging views of their children from people around them. They said people view their child as if an animal in the zoo or an alien. The only wish of those parents is to live a day longer than their children. While it is too much to expect ordinary people to help those parents and their children, people should not disregard the aspiration of those parents who even kneeled down to beg for understanding.