When Jang Hye-yeong realized that the facility caring for her autistic sister was abusive, she decided to care for her personally, taking jobs as an animator to make ends meet. In 2018, she released an award-winning documentary about their shared life, which boosted her profile as a filmmaker and a disability-rights advocate. Last year, she was elected one of South Korea’s youngest-ever lawmakers at the age of 33.
Jang has already made her mark within the progressive Justice Party, pushing through legislation that safeguards welfare services for retirees with disabilities. Her most ambitious initiatives are ongoing efforts to pass a law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, which is receiving pushback from influential religious conservatives and business groups. In January, she accused her party’s chairman of sexually assaulting her, leading to his resignation. She said she came forward in the hopes that it would encourage other women to do the same: in South Korea, an average of 3.4 sexual harassment crimes are reported every hour. “We all want to live the life of a decent human being with inherent dignity,” she told fellow lawmakers in September. —Charlie Campbell