One week from today, I will depart for Seoul, accompanied by an American Sign Language interpreter from Chicago. This trip has really been almost a year in the making and so it's bit of a shock to realize that it really, really is finally almost here.
In Seoul, I am honored to be, at the moment, planned to meet with staff at the following organizations:
Korean Women's Empathy
Differently Abled Women United
The Nodl Evening School and the Nodl Independent Living Center
Women with Disabilities Network
Women with Disabilities Arts and Culture Network
Seoul Association of the Deaf
Many thanks to Bae Bogjoo, Hong Sunghee and Kim Mijoo for their help.
The other day, my friend Howard showed me a story about blind masseurs in South Korea protesting against the government allowing sighted masseurs to practice. It seems that in South Korea, blind people have had a monopoly on massage and they are worried it will take away their livelihood since it is practically the only job available to people who are blind. So 26 blind masseurs protested by threatening to jump off a bridge and the police came and arrested them, decked out in riot gear. Read the story at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZI87CC9WsE&feature=related. This is just almost totally opposite to anything we know in the US today. It used to be that Deaf people were known to gravitate to jobs in printing, but that seems to be less true today and we have greater diversity of occupations available to all.
As someone who practices nonviolent civil disobedience, I have to say the South Korean police in riot gear look a heck of a lot scarier than a lot of the cops I've dealt with. Then again, here in the US the South Korean disability rights community has a rep for more hard core resistance, using tactics such as tying themselves to train tracks to protest lack of access to transportation. Truly, that is exposing injustice in the system, but it sure does take a lot of guts. As an ADAPTer, I appalud their willingness to put their bodies on the line---and I'd like to say to those who might say that it's all not necessary---yes, it is, when you're so oppressed that nothing else will work.
So my hat is off to South Korea---much respect to its disability rights activists, both women and men. I look forward to arriving in Seoul.