Choe Yeong-hui, a Democratic Party lawmaker, said a bill is being prepared to include crimes committed by foreign teachers while in Korea when they seek employment.Well, as the Korea Times (and Yonhap, in Korean) report, this bill was submitted yesterday:
Rep. Choi Young-hee of the main opposition Democratic Party submitted the bills obliging foreign English teachers to present criminal record and health check documents, including HIV-AIDS tests, before they are hired at public or private schools.I don't understand what loophole there could possibly be. If a foreigner on a work visa is arrested for a drug or sex crime in Korea, I'm going to assume that they'll either be deported, or do jail time and then be deported, with little chance of returning for years. Is this not correct? If those convicted of crimes are deported, how does this proposed bill change anything or 'remove loopholes'?
Under immigration regulations, applicants for an E-2 English teaching visa have been required to submit those documents since December 2007.
"E-2 visa holders, once caught for taking drugs or sexually harassing children, were often found to be rehired at another school or hagwon,'' said Yeo Jun-sung, an aide for Rep. Choi. "The proposed bills are to remove these loopholes from the current immigration law.'' If the bills are passed at the National Assembly, they will go into effect from next year.
A possibility may be that the schools or hagwons fired the teachers for drug use or sex crimes, but didn't report them to the police. The only place to lay the blame for a situation like that is at the feet of the school administrators, who, in a climate where sex crimes against children - by teachers, even - are rarely punished severely, decided not to involve the police to protect their own reputations.
One case that is touted as an example of this is the Australian teacher who 'threatened' his ex with AIDS, who, it was claimed, "had before been fired for molesting a child." Actually, according to this article, a co-worker said that he poked high school-aged girls with paper (?) and read their palms, while in this article it says that the blacklist read, "he often puts his hand on the students’ bodies. It does not rise to the level of sexual harassment but it is absolutely inappropriate. Students and parents said they were suspicious of him.” This case has been brought up several times (especially by anti-English Spectrum) as an example of a teacher who was guilty of molestation finding another job. Needless to say, in cases like this, or in actual molestation cases that go unreported, the new bill's call for a criminal record check will do nothing to stop such a teacher from being hired again.
The article continues:
In addition, the bills require "cannabinoid tests'' to detect marijuana users. The authorities initially planned to conduct the tests on E-2 visa applicants, but the idea was scrapped in March last year due to a lack of equipped hospitals and the fact smoking marijuana is not illegal in some countries.Again, as Brian notes, there were only 18 drug arrests (to October) last year of E-2 visa holders, with 24 out of 17,721 E-2 visa holders in 2007 being arrested for marijuana being the highest number - a rate of 0.14%.
Rep. Choi said Korea had a total of 38,822 E-2 visa holders last year. Among them, 11,067 were registered with hagwon, and 5,553 at elementary and secondary schools, but 22,202 were not accounted for.The Yonhap article says that 38,822 foreigners were issued E-2 visas and entered the country, just to clarify that. 22,202 are not accounted for. There are numerous problems with this.
First of all, here are the stats on E-2 visa holders in Korea as of October, 2008: There were 19,375 visa holders, with 18,174 of them being from the seven English speaking countries allowed to teach English, and 1201 others teaching mostly Chinese or Japanese. Now, I think I know where this 38,822 number is coming from. When I wrote the post about the history of scapegoating English teachers in the Korean media, I used figures from the Ministry of Justice's website that said that, for example 29,263 E-2 visas issued in 2006. Those figures are not correct - or at least do not reflect that number of teachers that are in Korea at any one time. If I had to make a guess, I'd imagine they combine the number of teachers holding the visa at the beginning of the year with those who enter the country on new visas during the year - but I really don't know. Perhaps that is the source of the 38,822 figure. All I can say for certain is that the number quoted above is incorrect.
Second of all, it seems we're dealing with people who either have no idea how immigration deals with E-2 visa holders, or who have not checked their facts and may end up scaring the public. I can't help but notice that a criticism that has been aimed at undocumented foreign workers - that they can't be tracked down by the government - is a spectre raised when national assembly representatives speak of 22,202 unaccounted-for English teachers.
Third of all, what does 'not accounted for' even mean? Are the 1201 teachers of other languages included in the totals of 'accounted for' teachers above?
The final paragraph of the article reminds us that it is, indeed, a Korea Times article about visa tests by Kang Shin-who:
"Meanwhile, foreign teachers' groups are urging the Korean government to test all teachers, whether they are Koreans or foreigners."How many times is he going to get this wrong?