Friday, June 26, 2009

A clear pattern

There have been several articles in the Korean English-language media over the past year or so that have portrayed the community of foreign English teachers as being divided on the basis of visa type as a result of the E-2 visa regulations implemented in late 2007. All of these articles were published in the Korea Times and written by Kang Shin-who.

On October 5, 2008, the Korea Times published an article titled "Ethnic Korean Teachers Not Screened for Criminal, Drug Record." This had nothing to do with ATEK and argued that people with other visa types should be tested in the same manner as E-2 visa holders:
Many foreign nationals and operators of language institutes or hagwon claim that the government should apply the same visa screening rules to ethnic Korean English teachers as those applied to other foreigners seeking E-2 visas.[...]

Under the Korean visa rules, native English speakers seeking E-2 visa are obliged to submit police background checks. However, foreigners who are ethnic Koreans or married to Korean nationals are exempt from the requirements as they are eligible for F-4 and F-2 visas, respectively.
On January 8, 2009 - three weeks before ATEK's 'Equal checks for all campaign' was announced - the Korea Times published "New Visa Law Angers Foreign Teachers Here" (hat tip to Brian in Jeollanam-do).
Many other foreign teachers at private language institutes also complain that the government should apply the same visa screening rules to foreign English teachers holding other visas as those applied to other foreigners seeking E-2 visas.

"If the government has decided to tighten the issuance of teaching visas because of increasing number of crimes by foreign teachers, what about other foreign teachers holding other types of visas such as F-2 or F-4?'' said an Australian English teacher in Daejeon.
On February 4, 2009, the Korea Times published "Foreign Teachers Fight 'Discrimination'; Justice Ministry Discounts the Claim" about the equal checks for all campaign:
In response, many E-2 visa holders have complained that the government should apply the same visa screening rules to foreign English teachers holding other visas. They are urging the government to use the same restrictions on teachers holding E-1 (professorship), F-2 (spouse of a Korean) or F-4 (ethnic Korean) visas.

"The visa rules for E-2 visa holders should be revised as they clearly discriminate on the basis of national origin,'' said Benjamin Wanger[sic], a professor of Kyung Hee University.

The article includes the same "the government should apply the same visa screening rules" comment as the previous two articles and also adds the phrase "urging the government to use the same restrictions" which will appear again. This is followed by an unrelated statement from Benjamin Wagner which makes it appear as if he is supporting the previous paragraph.

On June 6, 2009, the Korea Times published "Teachers to Go to Court Over Visa Rule," which initially included this paragraph:
E-2 visa holders have contended that the government should apply the same visa screening rules to foreign English teachers holding other visas, urging the government to use the same restrictions on teachers holding E-1 (professorship), F-2 (spouse of a Korean) or F-4 (ethnic Korean) visas. They made it clear that they don't oppose background checks as a rule.
Much of the first sentence in the paragraph above is similar to what was written in February, and the same two phrases appear again, the first one appearing for the fourth time since October. This paragraph was quickly corrected by Kang after a call from Benjamin Wagner.


On June 9, the Korea Times published "Bills Seek Tighter Screening of Foreign Teachers," and, despite having submitted to a correction three days earlier, Kang included this statement in the final paragraph:
"Meanwhile, foreign teachers' groups are urging the Korean government to test all teachers, whether they are Koreans or foreigners."
The phrase "urging the government to use the same restrictions" has been changed to "urging the government to test all teachers," but is obviously very similar.

Also interesting is that the article says that the new bills will oblige "foreign English teachers to present criminal record and health check documents, including HIV-AIDS tests, before they are hired at public or private schools.
" This Yonhap article makes no mention of HIV tests.

It has been suggested that ATEK's 'Equal checks for all campaign,' and the wording in their 'cut and paste' petitions to the NHRCK were to blame for news articles which said that ATEK was calling for E-2 visa-style regulations to be expanded to other visa types. The articles in question were the February 4 Korea Times article and a February 5 Joongang Ilbo article; the latter however only states that other visas do not have to submit to the same regulations - it does not call for E-2 regulations to be expanded to other visa types as the series of Korea Times articles mentioned above do.

It should be clear that Kang's articles have used the phrase "the government should apply the same visa screening rules" at least four times since October of last year, with two of the articles predating the 'Equal Checks for All' campaign. Considering this, as unclear as the message of that campaign was, I can't see how it could be held responsible for the way it was reported in the Korea Times.

I have no idea if this is due to sloppiness or being pressed for time on Kang's part, or if it's due to other reasons. It may be worth noting that Brian in Jeollanam-do has reported that statements attributed to Park Nahm-sheik in an article by Kang from April were said to have been mistranslated or taken out of context, according to people close to Park. I wasn't surprised when I read Brian's post, as I had not had any luck finding his statements in Korean.

Another article by Kang from March this year has the supervisor of the Incheon education office, Koo Young-sun, on record saying that, "Many foreign teachers lack teaching methodology and some of them are not ethically qualified to treat children." A Yonhap article on the same topic (in Korean) has no mention of these controversial statements from the supervisor.

Perhaps Kang interviewed her and she had words for him that she didn't share with others. Perhaps she did say these statements to Yonhap but Yonhap decided not to print them (well, it's possible). Perhaps there are other reasons. All I can say is that when you see an article written by this author, you may want to take it with a grain of salt.

Of course, that applies to any media source, doesn't it?

12 comments:

David tz said...

The problem with applying the same screening processes across the board for all foreigners regardless of visa, is that not all of us on F2 or F4 visas are teaching English to children. Some are not teaching English at all, but have moved on to other jobs that have nothing to do with teaching or children. It's easier to get English teaching jobs, but the whole point of an F class visa is that we are able to work anywhere, at any type of job. The idea that I have to submit to a criminal record check, in a country I have not resided in for nearly a decade, to work for a company that has nothing to do with children or teaching English, is ludicrous.

In addition, anyone currently applying for a F2 visa, has probably already been screened for an E2 visa since that's how they came to Korea in the first place and met their future spouse. That leaves the only people who have not undergone any type of screening, are ethnic Koreans who are are applying for F4 visas.

In the past, when working with children, I have had to get a criminal record check with the Korean police, so the idea that we don't have to go through any screening is a false assumption.

sonagi92 said...

Nice sleuthing.

Anonymous said...

And will this just keep going like this?

Nothing happening at Korea Times?

Anonymous said...

Meh,

Barely anyone reads the Korea times anyway...certainly not the average Korea.

It's just a community rag really.

ROK Hound said...

"The problem with applying the same screening processes across the board for all foreigners regardless of visa, is that not all of us on F2 or F4 visas are teaching English to children. Some are not teaching English at all"

You are making an incorrect leap here. The new bill has nothing to do with teachers or teaching. You're right in that it is to apply this screening process to all foreigners regardless of visa, but they said nothing about teachers. They said foreigners WHO WORK IN KOREA. Do you work on an F2? Then you would be obliged to submit to such screenings. Doesn't matter if you teach or not, you work.

The new bill would apply to all of the work visas (E-series), obviously, but also to people on F-series visas who work, to people on WHV, to people on student visas with part-time jobs, to DDD workers, etc.

Do I like it? Absolutely not. I've spent entirely too much time and money to submit and re-submit and re-re-submit my checks and tests to want to do it again.

HIV is not a foreigners' problem, and as long as it is presented as such and the bullshit is not called, we will continue to be discriminated against.

And, yes, "Lee Eung-ah", considering Korea's lack of medical privacy and the draconian way in which people with certain diseases are treated here, such tests ARE discriminatory when you apply them to one demonized group, pointing to them saying they are the problem.

Anonymous said...

I'm on an F-5 visa and have taught at a university for many years.

Since 2004 or so, matters of my employment (and of the many holders on F-2 and F-5 visa) no longer concern Immigration. Believe it or not, it is what it is: a fact of Korean Immigration law (one of the few things the Roh government got right). If they (Immigration, or any other ministry for that matter) now try to apply the same discriminatory screening process to F-5 visa holder, I'll sue. I can afford the time. I'm not planning on going anywhere anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

another brilliant post. kudos. glad you're in the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Can we fix the typo "An Clear . . ." to "A Clear". Unintentional, I realize but distracting.

j. said...

Kang is not the brightest star in the night sky. His editors tell him what to report, and he does not take the time to get informed.

I've met the guy and I like him, but he's in the wrong profession.

matt said...

Anonymous:
Damn - thanks (laughing uproariously now). What an embarrassing tipo!

Anonymous said...

i can back up what j. said, i've met kang as well. nice enough guy, but not the most competent.

The chief managing editor, a guy who calls himself "C.S. Lee" is the one running the show. C.S. makes no bones about trying to find the sensational angle on any story.

What may be interesting to you, Kang won an award for writing about the E-2 visa as discriminatory.

But not because of AIDS and drug tests, but because citizens of Asian nations not in the Big Seven aren't eligible to receive one.

I agree that national "native speaker" status should not be the deciding criteria for being a bono fide English teacher - but I'm certain once, for example, Indians and Phillipinios are here teaching English (as they have been promised), you will be sure to see articles from Kang criticizing their qualifications. Or more likely, making so-called "native speakers" criticize them.

An "unnamed source" said, etc., etc.

There is nothing the KT likes better than a foreigner on foreigner fight.

ROK Hound said...

"If they (Immigration, or any other ministry for that matter) now try to apply the same discriminatory screening process to F-5 visa holder, I'll sue."

Of course you will. If the Ministry of Education expanded their CURRENT LAWS to include all schools and teachers, and not only public schhols, you would have no recourse. Your lawsuit would be laughed out of court. Your F5 status would mean squat to the MoE because it would not be a visa issue, but a teaching/employment issue. It would not be discrimination at that point because all teachers would be subject to it.