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Korea`s 1st Disabled Prosecutor Ready to Start Work

Posted January. 30, 2010 09:13,   


The list of some 120 new prosecutors to be announced by the Justice Ministry includes one set to become a pioneer in the Korean prosecution.

Yang Ik-joon, 31, who has completed courses for junior lawyers at the Judicial Research and Training Institute, is paralyzed from the waist down. He will become Korea`s first disabled person to appointed a prosecutor Feb. 8.

In an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo yesterday, Yang was all smiles, saying he is "happy" to prove that he does anything despite his physical disability.

In 1997, Yang was a high school senior when he missed a step that caused him to fall off from the rail of his home about 100 days before taking the college entrance exam. His family took part in his rehabilitation and treatment, but he ended up in a wheelchair.

“Lying in bed all the time, I began to see people who are physically challenged,” he said. “I chose to major in law to find a way to help them.”

He overcame challenge after challenge until finally graduating from the judicial institute, a training center for those who passed the national bar. When he entered Yonsei University College of Law in 2001, his family left his hometown of Masan, South Gyeongsang Province, and moved to a small room in western Seoul to support him.

His father had to give up his job to help him, so Yang`s family became poorer. Yang had to take a taxi all the time because he could not afford a secondhand vehicle to accommodate his wheelchair.

Many law majors tend not to care so much about their grade point average than others because they must fully devote themselves to state-administered judicial exams. Yang, however, had to maintain a high grade point average to get scholarships covering his tuition. When he started to prepare for the judicial exams, he attended oncampus lectures for about half the cost of those at private institutions at the Sillim-dong district.

His dream of becoming a prosecutor grew clearer as he attended lectures at the Judicial Research and Training Institute. “I really enjoyed subjects related with prosecution,” he said. “I received higher scores in those subjects than in others.”

Yang said he is confident he can be a good prosecutor if he sees the underprivileged from a fair perspective. He wondered, however, if he could investigate cases given his disability, as he had never heard of a prosecutor in a wheelchair.

Professors at the institute encouraged him not to give up, saying he should become a prosecutor to show that a disabled person can do the job.

Working for two months as an intern at a prosecutors` office in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, he came to believe that becoming a prosecutor in a wheelchair is not impossible.

“Prosecutors I worked for at the office made me learn about the job just the way they do with other people rather than give me favors,” he said. “That was when I learned that the job of a prosecutor has nothing to do with physical disabilities.”

The Justice Ministry had to consider many things when it selected Yang as a prosecutor, but saw no reason not to hire him.

A ministry official said he not only had stellar grades but also maintained good relationships with others to the extent that he never missed a gathering or group activity. “We decided that there was no problem with him executing prosecutorial duties,” the official said.

Yang said, “I hope people who are facing difficult situations don`t think that they cannot do something. I believe one can achieve anything if he or she sets a goal and works steadily to reach that goal.”