Korean Scholar Visits To Study American IL Movement

HeekyoungHeekyoung Chong, a doctoral student from South Korea, visited the Research and Training Center on Independent Living in February 2011 to learn about independent living for people with disabilities in the U.S.

Chong is writing her dissertation on Korean disability history and the future of the movement. As a graduate student at a Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, she has compared Japan’s independent living (IL) movement to Korea’s, and wanted to learn next about the American approach.

Speaking through an interpreter, Chong describes herself as an activist in the Korean IL movement as well as a researcher.

“In America, research is closer to people’s lives than in Korea,” Chong said. “I want to learn more about how independent living centers in the U.S. work together to balance research findings with the everyday life of people with disabilities.”

When the Korean IL movement began in the 90s, she said, its focus was on changing policies related to people with disabilities. Now the focus has shifted to the government providing services, such as personal assistants and transportation.

“For the centers, it’s become more of a business than action for society,” she said. Chong would like to see more emphasis on advocacy, as happens in the U.S.

“In Korea, it’s fairly easy to change policies and laws, but it’s difficult to change attitudes toward people with disabilities,” she noted.

At the RTC/IL, Chong met with Dr. Glen White, director, and other staff members. She also visited with Ranita Wilks, staff member at Independence, Inc., the center for independent living in Lawrence.

Thanks to KU Social Welfare doctoral student Mun Ju Kang for translating