The view of the "foreign English teacher" has shifted in the Korean public consciousness from being a respected and distant figure (the Confucian default) to an exotic, sexualized (and approachable - thus the danger) "entertainer/consort" of sorts.The second piece worth reading is by Scott Burgeson, from the introduction to his new book "더 발칙한 한국학":
I see the law trying to keep pace with this shift in the E-2 visa policy, especially the HIV test.
Have you seen the Lady Kyunghyang (women's mag) article on dating foreigners? There was a poll taken by XY in Love and the Lady K where they asked Koreans (men & women) how they tried to hook up with foreigners for sexual encounters.
The number one answer (120+) was trying to meet English teachers through language hogwans. Respondents were about 6 times more likely to attempt a hook-up at a hogwan than at a Hongdae nightclub (20). (Clubs where E-6 type workers would be found weren’t even mentioned.)
The law sees sexualized foreigners as a dangerous public health risk.
Korea's "Prevention of AIDS Act" (No. 7451, March 31, 2005) requires ‘risky long-term stay foreigners’ to receive HIV tests before visas will be issued. Foreign English teachers are not defined as one of these risky types of foreigners under this Act. (The E-2 visa ad hoc policy memo fills the gap though, I would argue).
So who are the risky ones? A separate ordinance of the AIDS Prevention Act defines them as follows: “Those who enter the country with the goal of sojourning for 91 days or more . . . to engage in performance entertainment/show business, sports and other entertainment-related businesses or activities in order to make a profit . . ."
(The new E-2 visa, an E-6 visa for men?)
Again, I'd argue that in the current Korean consciousness the foreign English teacher falls squarely in the "other entertainment-related business" category. Thus, the E-2 visa HIV test is less of an aberration than it seems. It really has very little to do with the goal of protecting children as it claims. I'd suggest that, just like the de jure E-6 visa foreign "merry-maker" already covered under this Act, the E-2 visa English teacher has been identified as a de facto foreign "merry-maker" that the law needs to protect the public against.
At this point, the meme of "low-quality native English teachers" has become so pervasive and powerful in the local media that I believe Western English teachers in Korea have become the new "GIs" in the eyes of many South Koreans: Just as GIs have traditionally been seen here as a "necessary evil" who are only tolerated for "the good of the country," and were widely resented in the past when they were still relatively "rich" by local standards, it seems that many South Koreans today view native English teachers here in much the same harsh light. During WWII, a great many GIs were stationed in Britain as part of the Allied war effort against Nazi Germany, and a popular expression used at the time by Brits to describe them seems to mirror the way many Koreans feel about native English teachers here today: "Overpaid, Oversexed and over Here."