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Calls grow for anti-discrimination law

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Park Ji-hyun, left, the co-chairperson of the current ruling liberal Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), speaks during an emergency committee meeting of the party at the National Assembly on Seoul's Yeouido, Friday. Rep. Yun Ho-jung, the co-chairperson of the party, is on the right. Joint Press Corps
Park Ji-hyun, left, the co-chairperson of the current ruling liberal Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), speaks during an emergency committee meeting of the party at the National Assembly on Seoul's Yeouido, Friday. Rep. Yun Ho-jung, the co-chairperson of the party, is on the right. Joint Press Corps

By Jung Da-min

Activists and politicians from the liberal and progressive blocs are calling for the passage of an anti-discrimination law, saying it should happen before the Yoon Suk-yeol administration takes office on May 10.

Those calling for the establishment of an anti-discrimination law are desperately trying to make their voices heard by holding press conferences in front of the National Assembly and even participating in a hunger strike.

They have said that it will likely be even more difficult to establish the law once the next administration, which represents the country's conservative bloc, is inaugurated.

Park Ji-hyun, the co-chairperson of the ruling liberal Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), has put her support behind the anti-discrimination law, calling for the DPK leadership to keep its promise to establish the law.

"I am concerned about whether some might say why I have to bring out this issue of the anti-discrimination law, while the DPK is going through a filibuster war (with the main opposition party, the People Power Party). But this law is about people's lives and the survival of those being discriminated against: women, people with disabilities and children who suffer from discrimination and hatred," Park said during an emergency committee meeting of the DPK at the National Assembly, Friday.

Park was referring to the recently escalating tension between the country's two major parties over thorny political issues such as prosecutorial reform or the hearings of ministerial nominees.

Park requested Rep. Yun Ho-jung, the other co-chairperson of the DPK, to keep the promise he made to her when proposing to take on the party leadership in March, saying that they would be establishing the law together.

Park, a 26 year-old activist-turned politician, played an important role in gaining votes from young female voters for Lee Jae-myung, the DPK's presidential candidate who lost against Yoon by a razor-thin margin in the March 9 presidential election.

"It was the DPK who first made the promise to establish the anti-discrimination law and it is the DPK who has neglected that promise for 15 years," Park said, referring to the law that has been waiting to be established for 15 years but has yet to be passed in the National Assembly.

Participants pose during a press conference calling for the establishment of an anti-discrimination law that comprehensively bans all kinds of discrimination and promotes equality, held at an auditorium of the National Assembly Library on Seoul's Yeouido, Thursday. Joint Press Corps
Participants pose during a press conference calling for the establishment of an anti-discrimination law that comprehensively bans all kinds of discrimination and promotes equality, held at an auditorium of the National Assembly Library on Seoul's Yeouido, Thursday. Joint Press Corps

So far, there have been eight attempts by the government or political parties to submit a bill to the National Assembly to establish a law that comprehensively bans all kinds of discrimination based on gender, disability, age, language, country of origin, religion, sexual orientation, physical condition, academic background and any other reason. But all these attempts have been blocked by ultra conservative religious groups or political parties on the grounds that they are against homosexuality.

As the current main opposition People Power Party (PPP) is to become the next ruling party upon Yoon's inauguration in May, activists said that now is the last chance for the current ruling DPK and the Moon Jae-in government to establish the anti-discrimination law.

Lee Jong-gul, a spokesperson for LGBTQ activist group Chingusai, and Miryu, a human rights activist with the civic organization Sarangbang, began a hunger strike in front of the National Assembly on April 11.

In an April 25 interview with local newspaper Hankyoreh, Lee said he was concerned that hatred against social minorities would grow under the upcoming administration, seeing the recent controversies over PPP Chairman Lee Jun-seok openly criticizing subway protests by people with disabilities who have been calling on the government to guarantee universal rights for them, in particular, their mobility rights to be able to move around equitably.

"This is why we say we need to establish the law now," Lee said. He called for the DPK not to put off the discussion anymore, saying that they have been doing so for over five years now since President Moon was sworn in.


Jung Da-min damin.jung@koreatimes.co.kr


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