September 5, 2009
Sang-Mook Lee is a very widely cited/published marine geophysicist from South Korea who sustained a severe spinal cord injury. He is paralyzed from the neck down.
What makes his situation notable is that people with disabilities in South Korea rarely engage in society, but Dr. Sang-Mook Lee has returned to his research and teaching at the Seoul National University. They call him “the Korean Stephen Hawking” there (which I don’t particularly think is appropriate; why not just be Dr. Lee, scholar in a wheelchair?) He wrote a book about his struggle and also blogs and makes public appearances to advocate for individuals with disabilities. There are some progressive laws in place (see links after the jump), but the society as a whole is lagging behind on the issue.
Having total paralysis is bad enough, but to face widespread discrimination and a public environment lacking in accommodations would be worse. Such an environment needs civil rights leaders such as Dr. Lee.
Some more links about disability law and issues in Republic of Korea: