Disability sport and activism in South Korea

Disability sport and activism in South Korea
Inhyang Choi


Disability sport can be a powerful platform for activism because disabled elite athletes have
the platform to potentially to highlight injustice both within and outside sports. This was
recently stressed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) through their 2019-2022
strategic policy plan to promote disability activism through disability sports contexts.
However, there are no studies that directly examine who―from the disabled non-athlete and
elite athlete communities―actually engages in activism the most. In addition, most studies
have paid exclusive attention to disabled elite athlete activism as the sole example of
disability activism in the disability sports context in Western counties. Thus, the purpose of
this study was to explore disabled sports and activism in South Korea. A sequential mixedmethod
design was used to meet the aim. First, activism orientation was measured amongst
elite disabled athletes (n =100) and the results compared with results from recreational
athletes (n = 100) and non-athletes (n = 200). The quantitative analysis revealed that elite
athletes were more willing to engage in activism than recreational athletes and non-athletes.
Second, 18 elite athletes, 15 recreational athletes, 12 non-athletes and four NPC members
were interviewed to explore the types of activism that can enable social missions to be
achieved, and the reasons why (motivators) they engaged in activism and why they were
reluctant to do so (barriers). The narrative analysis revealed a diverse range of activisms
(e.g., sports-based, political, social, economic, scholarly, online). Thematic analysis showed
that compared to non-athletes and recreational athletes, elite athletes are better positioned to
speak out for social change. These findings enrich the understanding of disability sports
activism through the lens of cultural sport psychology and sociology. Finally, the thesis
concludes with methodological, theoretical and practical implications of the research, by
emphasising how disabled sports can be supported in their social missions.


Inhyang Choi

PhD defended at

Durham University, Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences


Social Sciences


East Asia
South Korea


Human Rights