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Seoul Metro files damages suit against disability advocacy group

Jan. 10, 2023 - 15:23 By Park Jun-hee
Disabled activists from Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination hold a propaganda campaign at Hyehwa Station on Jan. 4. (Yonhap)

Seoul Metro, operator of the Seoul subway system, filed a damages suit against a disability rights advocacy group for disrupting train operations through subway-riding protests.

The Seoul city government said Tuesday the company filed a lawsuit with the Seoul Central District Court on Friday against Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination, the country’s largest disability rights group, seeking damages of 601.4 million won ($484,000) for train delays and other losses.

The subway operator claimed the advocacy group demonstrated 75 illegal subway protests from Dec. 3 to Dec. 15 last year.

Activists in wheelchairs conducted subway-riding protests during commuter rush hour at major subway stations within Seoul, in efforts to urge government to increase budget for disability rights and provide measures to improve mobility rights.

In November 2021, Seoul’s subway operator filed a civil suit claiming 30 million won against the advocacy group for disrupting subway operations.

Last month, the Seoul Central District Court issued a mediation, asking the subway operator to install elevators at subway stations and for the advocacy group to halt protests. The court also ruled SAAD must pay 5 million won for every five-minute delay in subway operations.

SADD accepted the adjustment plan, but the city government and Seoul Metro refused.

Failing to reach an agreement, disability activists resumed their protests on Jan. 2, clashing with police. On that same day, the subway operator warned the group of an additional lawsuit.

The disability rights advocacy group declared a two-week suspension of subway protests until Jan. 19, demanding a meeting with Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon. Oh accepted the request, but the two sides have yet to decide on details for the proposed meeting.

In the meantime, the advocacy group said it would hold a propaganda campaign at Hyehwa Station at 8 a.m. to further publicize their agenda.

Last month, Oh declared “zero tolerance” against the advocacy group. Oh warned there would be no more generosity toward illegality, pledging to take all possible legal action to stop protestors from creating havoc with subway operations.