President Lee Myung-bak on Monday called on both public and private sectors to provide more jobs for physically challenged people
“I believe it is necessary for the private sector, in addition to the government and public institutions, to increase employment of disabled people as well,” Lee was quoted as saying in a weekly meeting with his top aides by his spokesperson Kim Hee-jung.
The president also said in a biweekly radio and Internet address earlier Monday that offering jobs was the best welfare policy for disabled people.
“I have always thought that providing jobs for whoever has the will to stand on their own and has the ability to work was the best welfare,” Lee said two days ahead of April 20, the nationally designated day for the physically challenged.
“Many disabled people I have met had found meaning of life through work and have grown closer with their families and neighbors.”
First lady Kim Yoon-ok meets the family of a disabled person during a luncheon commemorating April 20, the Day for the Physically Challenged, at Cheong Wa Dae on Monday. (Yonhap News)
Mentioning that most public institutions and private companies with 50 or more employees were still falling short of their employment quota for the disabled ― 3 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively ― Lee stressed the importance of change in attitude and culture toward the physically disabled.
“There are companies like Bingrae and public agencies like the National Pension Service that are setting examples by employing disabled people, but the average employment (by businesses and public agencies) of disabled people still falls short of legally recommended quotas,” Lee said.
Business owners who refuse to hire people because of their disabilities face fines, but what is most important is for people to change their way of thinking, he said, adding that most disabled workers had strong passion and sense of professional responsibility.
“I wish we have more social enterprises in the future where physically disabled people can really develop and show their capabilities,” Lee said.
“I ask companies to take more proactive steps to create more jobs for disabled people.”
Also during Monday’s meeting with his aides, Lee warned against populism ahead of the April 27 parliamentary and local by-elections.
“The government should take extra care not to make populist policies that run counter to national interests or burden the (Korean) people,” Lee said, calling for close consultations between the ruling Grand National Party and the government.
Concerns have arisen ahead of the April 27 elections with candidates promising pork-barrel projects worth billions of dollars, especially in the race for Gangwon Province governor.
Projects that Ohm Ki-young of the GNP and Choi Moon-soon of the main opposition Democratic Party have promised include building a high-speed train and other railway projects, establishing a free economic zone and constructing large-scale industrial and other complexes.
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org