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The NHRCK urges the state-run railway operator to offer rail fare discounts to foreigners with disabilities
The NHRCK expresses its opinion on the inclusion of foreigners with disabilities in fare discounts.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK, Chairperson Song Doo-hwan) expressed its opinion on July 14, 2023, that the state-owned railway operator (hereinafter referred to as the “respondent”) needs to reinvent the current practice to give foreigners registered as disabled a railway discount in conjunction with relevant government departments and agencies.
The person who filed a petition is a South Korean citizen whose spouse was registered as hearing impaired in June 2022. Yet, the petitioner argued that his/her spouse could not receive a discount on railway fares because the spouse is a foreigner.
The respondent insisted that it does not represent discrimination based on the facts: the respondent shoulders costs of about 20 billion KRW each year to make up for a deficit originating from the discounted fare for the disabled; the state and local governments may restrict financial support for persons with disabilities due to budget constraints and other reasons, according to Article 32-2 of the “Act on Welfare of Persons with Disabilities”; and registered foreigners with disabilities are already provided with various services for the transportation vulnerable with the exception of rail fare discounts.
A Discrimination Remedy Subcommittee at the NHRCK (Commissioner Nam Kyusun, a standing member) dismissed the petition, citing the differential treatment of the respondent is based on relevant law and seems reasonable in consideration of the high debt ratio of the railway organization.
The NHRCK, however, called for the state-run railway operator to better the current practice to offer fare discounts to foreigners with disabilities.
The NHRCK pointed out, in particular, that the government has introduced the disability registration system for foreigners and overseas Korean since January 2013, but registered foreigners with disabilities are still excluded from fare discounts. The right of mobility is one of the basic human rights regardless of disabilities and train fares are relatively expensive. Against this background, the NHRCK dismissed the petition, yet the NHRCK maintains the fare system not including foreigners with disabilities needs modifying.
“The reduction of railway fares for the disabled has Article 30 of the “Act on Welfare of Persons with Disabilities” as its legal ground, which alleviates the financial burden for the disabled. Giving the railway fare discount to registered foreigners with disabilities will promote the social participation of the disabled and improve human rights by securing the mobility rights,” the NHRCK said in a statement.
Therefore, the NHRCK expressed the opinion that the state-run railway should work with relevant bodies and establish an improvement plan to offer fare discounts to foreigners with disabilities.