South Korean musical theater actress Lee Ha Rin recently shared an Instagram story complaining about the ongoing protests in Seoul.
These protests, demanding the South Korean government to make immediate improvements in the policies protecting and serving people with disabilities, have been led by the organization Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination (SADD) since December 2021.
Voicing their frustration against Seoul Metro, one of the government’s most notoriously inaccessible services for people with disabilities, SADD protesters have been gathering in random subway stations across Seoul and “interrupting” the operations by stopping the cabin doors from closing and/or occupying the space within the cabins.
For months, Seoul citizens have been experiencing the effects of the protests—most severely during morning rush hours. Delaying a stop for as short as 15 minutes to as long as 120, the protests have caused inevitable “inconveniences” to those who commute using the public transportation.
The actress, too, complained about a 30-minute stop caused by the protest.
I ended up losing 30 minutes of my time and ₩20,000 KRW (about $16.30 USD) of my money because of the disability protests. And I was late. Protests that only inconvenience other people are not healthy protests. Please, stop.
— Lee Ha Rin
Koreans initially responded to the story with fierce backlash. Pointing out the ignorance, especially in the photograph of her “working legs” attached to the story, online communities called out the immense insensitivity behind her complaint.
- “It saddens me to think that we, as a society, have become so inconsiderate of each other that we—even the famous ones like her—spew out hurtful things like that without thinking twice. What happened to us?”
- “It’s mind-blowing that she posted a picture of her working legs with this complaint. This generation is filled with so much hate toward the most vulnerable.”
- “Look at those legs you have. Get off and walk, then. What a lunatic!”
- “Maybe she took the picture of her legs while sitting and waiting. Here’s a thought: Stop complaining and use those legs.”
- “How offensive… I’ll be sure remember her name.”
- “I think she should be removed from the show she’s doing right now. I’d hate to see someone like her perform on stage.”
- “That’s some personality you have.”
- “Who is she?”
- “If she really believes there are protests that don’t cause inconveniences, she’s comical. These people are protesting because every second of their lives are inconvenienced by the lack of accessibility. How dare you tell them not to inconvenience you! Ridiculous.”
In response to the criticism, Lee Ha Rin soon uploaded a handwritten apology.
Hello, this is Lee Ha Rin. I would like to apologize to those offended and disappointed by the immaturity in my behavior and speech. I’m sorry. I accept all of the concerned advice and constructive criticism that I have received.
Once I realized what I’ve done, I, too, have been disappointed in myself and so it took me a while to muster up the courage to write this. I’m sorry I didn’t apologize sooner. I didn’t know what to say to convey how sorry I am about what I said.
I regret that I did not try to understand the protesters and consider their struggles first. Going forward, I promise to be more attentive and considerate of the people around me and to behave more maturely. Again, I sincerely apologize for everything.
— Lee Ha Rin
The apology, however, has since sparked some divided reactions among Koreans.
Those who are against the protests have flocked to the comments section of the apologetic post and agreed with the actress speaking up about the “unfairness” of it all. These comments argued that though not violent in nature, the protests are considered illegal (as the South Korean police force has not “approved” them in advance) and so the protesters must be stopped.
- “I’m rooting for you.”
- “Why are you apologizing? You said the right thing.”
- “Keep your chin up. We’re all rooting for you.”
- “I don’t think it was inconsiderate of you at all. I’m rooting for you, too.”
- “Why apologize? Did you do something wrong? Everything you said made perfect sense. So I don’t know why you have to be sorry.”
- “You don’t have to apologize. You didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, you were inconvenienced. It is against the law to hold up traffic like that. It’s the protesters who should be arrested.”
- “You’re not in the wrong. The protesters are villains, for sure.”
Amid the division, the SADD protesters continue to fight for more accessibility.
We’re willing to confront the ceaseless hatred and discrimination for getting on the subway in the morning during rush hour. We understand that our protests are upsetting to the non-disabled citizens commuting to work. Please realize that, even if it means having to face such fierce opposition, we must continue fighting for what we’ve been demanding for the past 20 years: The most basic and the simplest rights. Please help us change this society filled with ignorance and unfairness toward the population with disabilities.
— Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination
Seoul Metro has taken to its official Twitter account to share any protest information with its riders in real time.