Understanding Citizenship and Quality of Life through Disabled Activists in South Korea

  • Hyunhee Park

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Sixteen disabled activists and leaders in the field of disability in South Korea were interviewed to probe into questions about the concepts of citizenship and quality of life (QOL) of disabled people in South Korea and to share their stories about their involvement in the disability movement. First, drawing on Morris’s (2005) concept of citizenship for disabled people and Felce and Perry’s (1995) model of QOL, their citizenship and QOL, and by extension the citizenship and QOL of disabled people in general, within South Korean society were examined. Data analysis found that the negative perception of disabled people was the first and the most prevalent barrier within society which prevented disabled people from enjoying their citizenship and a better QOL. The interviewees directly and indirectly emphasised the significance of autonomy as a pre-condition for their citizenship and QOL. They wanted to belong in and contribute to society as autonomous citizens; whilst they described how disabled people’s QOL could be improved by enjoying informal relationships, having power and equally distributed opportunities, enjoying leisure time and having a certain kind of attitude to life such as positivity and self-initiative. Disabled people’s citizenship and QOL were found to improve each other reciprocally. Data analysis also revealed that some participants found a positive identity through involvement in the disability movement. This resulted in them being empowered and autonomous and, furthermore, affirming their citizenship and enjoying a better QOL. Thematic analysis was utilised as an analytical method, as the participants shared their life stories and experiences, as well as their feelings, thoughts and opinions. This approach helped to identify patterns related to their experiences, opinions, views and behaviours in the stories and was also appropriate in interrogating the meaning of living as citizens and the definition of QOL to the interviewees.
Date of Award24 Jun 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorDavid W F Abbott (Supervisor) & Noemi Lendvai-Bainton (Supervisor)

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