A law that only allows visually impaired people to become licensed masseurs does not violate South Korea's constitutions, according to a court ruling.
Since 1912, massage work has been restricted to the blind in South Korea. In May 2006, the Constitutional Court ruled that an ordinance issued by a government ministry limiting licenses to the blind infringed on sighted masseurs' freedom to work.
However, visually impaired people say massage is their only way to make a living. Two masseurs even committed suicide in apparent protest of the decision.
The protests led the national legislature to pass a law in September 2006 stipulating that only the blind could become licensed masseurs. Sighted masseurs petitioned the Constitutional Court to reject the law but the court recently ruled the law was an inevitable decision to grant preferential treatment to the blind.
Practising without a license is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of about $9,600. Spas and salons get around the law by offering "sports massages."
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