Presidential candidate’s comments on disability draw ire

Posted on : 2007-05-17 14:53 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Asked about abortion, Lee Myung-bak says in cases of disability it is ‘unavoidable’

Former Seoul mayor Lee Myung-bak is earning the ire of disabled organizations for saying he approves of abortion if a child is going to be born handicapped.

Twenty members of 18 handicapped groups, including the Korea Differently Abled Federation, an umbrella organization of more than 20 groups of handicapped persons across the country, stormed into Lee’s office in Seoul’s Yeouido on May 16 and staged a sit-in to demand an apology.

Asked about his position on abortion in a May 12 interview with the Chosun Ilbo, Lee said he "is basically opposed."

"But there are unavoidable cases," he said. "Such as if the child is going to be born into the world handicapped, for example. It seems that abortions that are unavoidable have to be tolerated."

His comments "mean the lives of handicapped people are not worthy of respect," said Park Gyeong-sik of a handicapped group.

With the exception of Lee’s Grand National Party, all of Korea’s political parties criticized him for his statement.

"His comment makes [Korea’s] 4.8 million handicapped people cry and drives a great nail in their chests," said Uri Party spokesman Choi Jae-sung. "It is unbearable having to see the philosophical shallowness of a man who wants to be president."

"If he doesn’t appreciate the weight and significance of his own words, he is missing the most important quality of a leader," said Yang Hyung-il, the spokesman for an Uri splinter group that is in the process of forming its own party.

Lee’s presidential campaign issued a statement later in the day saying that his comment "were not meant to belittle the handicapped" and that there "was room for misunderstanding in his choice of terms."

Lee meant to say he thinks abortion should be permitted "under strict and careful legal and medical judgment, when the life of the mother and child are seriously threatened, the premise being that he is opposed to abortion" in principle, the statement read.

Consistently the leading candidate for president in opinion polls, Lee has frequently made comments considered controversial. He recently said that people who join labor unions "have no pride" and that people who were part of the democracy movement in the 1960s and 1970s "played around with not a care in the world and now live off the legacy of their activities."

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