Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mentally Ill People to be Eligible to Drive

The Cabinet has approved a bill that would allow people with mental conditions to obtain a driver’s license, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Welfare has said. The bill is aimed at giving mental patients more opportunities for rehabilitation, and will allow those suffering from temporary mental conditions to drive home from hospital after receiving treatments. Surprise has been expressed by some citizens on hearing the news – the extremely poor quality of driving in Korea and the regular use of the nation’s sidewalks by car drivers and motorcyclists had led many to believe that mentally ill people were already eligible to drive in South Korea.

The bill will also force hospitals to discharge patients who decide not to receive medical treatment, even if medical professionals judge them to be a danger to society. Members of the Cabinet have been worried that as the law currently stands, they may be at risk of being held without trial, although the new law will benefit other people as well as protecting them. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, the Cabinet continue to deny they are a danger to society.

While Koreans who are judged to be at risk of hurting themselves or others will be free to refuse medical treatment and must be released into society, the bill takes the opposite approach to foreigners living in Korea; the new law allows for the forced hospitalization of foreign residents who are judged to be dangerous.

The Ministry of Justice, which overseas immigration-related matters as part of its criminal remit, shares a belief - along with most of the Korean media - that many foreigners are potentially dangerous, and it welcomes the introduction of a law that will enable these drug-taking sexually depraved individuals to be quietly removed en masse from society depending on the political or media climate. By introducing the anti-foreigner legislation under the guise of driving license bill, Korean politicians are hoping that the foreign community living in Korea will be unaware of the government’s new ability to detain them without trial.

The bill has been welcomed on Internet forums frequented by women who are married to foreigners. 24-year-old Seoul resident Kim wrote "Now I can trick my non-Korean speaking husband into attending the hospital on some pretext, explain some of his habits to the doctors, and get rid of him."

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