Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Choi Young-hee's 3 bills regarding native English teachers

Back in early June, Representative Choi Young-hee of the Democratic Party submitted three bills requiring foreign English teachers to have criminal record and health and drug checks before being hired at public or private schools. Professor Benjamin Wagner has translated the three Bills sponsored by Choi Young-hee, which follow:

Three Bills by Rep. Choi Young Hee,
Tuesday June 9, 2009

These three bills were submitted to the national assembly on June 9, 2009. All three bills intend to amend the Education Act and have the same statement of purpose:

Purpose of Revised Bill

English education is becoming more important, and parents increasingly prefer native English teachers for their children’s English education. At the same time, however, the crime rate among native English teachers is getting higher. It is therefore necessary to systemize quality control inspection measures on native English teachers in Korea in order to correct problems, such as individuals who are wanted internationally for sex crimes against children abroad and who end up hired as English teachers in Korea. Furthermore, there are native English speakers who have committed crimes in Korea and been expelled from Korea for those crimes, yet these native English speakers are being rehired as English teachers in Korea a few years after their expulsion from the country.

All three bills have the same National Assembly members supporting them:

박은수 백원우 송민순 송영길 양승조 이미경
전현희 전혜숙 최문순 최영희 최재성

Bill No.5062 is titled:
Partially revised bill on the Act on the Establishment and Operation of Private Teaching Institutes and Extracurricular Lessons (the "Revised Bill")


Main Terms of the Revised Bill:
If a founder, owner, or administrator of a private teaching institute wants to hire any native English teacher (satisfying paragraph 1 of Article 13) to teach English, these native English teachers must receive criminal background checks, medical checks including a test for marijuana and for [hard] drugs, and academic credential verification in order to determine their quality and qualify them for hire as a native English teachers. (This term is newly inserted as Article 13-2).


Bill No. 5064 is titled:
Partially revised bill on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Main Terms of the Revised Bill:
The Superintendent of the Office of Education (in the case of a private school, such a superintendent means the manager of the institute or a private school) shall hire other native English teachers to teach English (besides teachers prescribed in the paragraph 1 of Article 19) and these native English teachers must receive criminal background checks, medical checks including a test for marijuana and [hard] drug tests, and academic credential verification in order to determine their quality and qualify them for hire as a native English teachers. (This term newly inserted as Article 22-2).


Bill No.5065 is titled:
Partially revised bill on the Early Childhood Education Act

Main Terms of the Revised Bill:
The Superintendent of the Office of Education or superintendent of a kindergarten (in case of a private kindergarten, such a superintendent means the manager of a institute or a private kindergarten) shall hire other native English teachers to teach English (besides teachers prescribed in the paragraph 1 of Article 19) and these native English teachers must receive criminal background checks, medical records including a test for marijuana and [hard] drug tests, and academic credential verification in order to determine their quality and qualify them for hire as a native English teachers. (This term newly inserted as Article 23-2).
______

To recap, Bill 5062 seems to apply to private institutes, Bill 5064 applies to elementary and secondary schools, and Bill 5065 applies to kindergartens. All require “native English teachers” hired to teach English to “receive criminal record checks, medical records including a test for marijuana and [hard] drug tests, and academic credential verification.”

Note the term “native English teachers” (원어민교사), and not specifically E-2 visa holders. Does this mean all native English teachers will have to undergo these requirements, regardless of their visa? According to Ben Wagner, who talked with an aide of Choi Young-hee, the answer is no – the bill applies only to E-2 visa holders. Still, those on other visas might wish the bill to be a little more specific in its language.

Also, when he initially spoke with them, Wagner told me that Choi’s office seemed to be unclear as to what an E-2 visa was or what its limitations are, as they seemed to be trying to stop people moving from job to job, something that, unless an employer closes their school, is impossible under the terms of an E-2 visa.

The Korea Times article about these bills mentioned that HIV checks were needed (though this Yonhap article didn’t). As it turns out, Wagner told me that Choi is against HIV checks because "it is discrimination and a human rights violation". It would seem strange that the Korea Times reported HIV tests were included, but when you consider the article was written by Kang Shin-who, perhaps it’s not so surprising. Wagner later told me that “We asked why the Korea Times report said the bills introduced HIV/AIDS when it didn't appear in the texts. They had no idea and were very upset to hear this.”

Wagner also notes that the criminal background checks called for are national (as in, Korean) criminal checks. “The Aide said this is to prevent foreigners with criminal records from getting a job.” Whether this is meant to apply to people working illegally on a tourist visa who get arrested and/or deported and who try to come back and work legally on an E-2 visa, or some other situation, is not known.

Wagner wrote that
As for the drug tests, the aide said they were aware of the drug arrest data in my report but stressed that since the E-2 was a "short-term visa, so there is an underlying worry" - I take that to mean they are aware the arrests are low but that they are still concerned. They added however once the E-2 visa program is "settled firmly" they will "decrease requirements" for the E-2 visa.
As for the missing 22,000 teachers, I sent Wagner the immigration statistics I found (mentioned in this post) and he asked immigration about them, who confirmed that Choi’s office had used the wrong statistics. They weren’t happy being told they'd let "22,000" E-2 visa holders slip through their hands, and quickly contacted Choi’s office to let them know they’d made a mistake.

Wagner was also curious about the source of information which lead Choi’s office to believe that “the crime rate among native English teachers is getting higher.”
I pressed for stats for the statements "At the same time, however, the crime rate among native English teachers is getting higher,” and "Furthermore, there are native English speakers who have committed crimes in Korea and expelled from Korea for those crimes, yet these native English speakers are being rehired as English teacher in Korea a few years after their expulsion from the country."

Sadly, they don't have them. The aide mentioned some police reports of crimes they had received in regards to first statement, but just of crimes, not of an increase. For the second quote I was told they'd seen a newspaper story (no I'm not kidding). He didn't remember the title or where they saw it.

I mentioned that such unqualified statements are dangerous because they tend to panic people.

We told him my stats from the paper, and he said they were aware of them. He didn't disagree with the stats. I asked why there was so much concern and regulations over a non-citizen group with an incredibly low crime rate. He said it's a "preliminary protective measure".
As to why they seem so eager to take "preliminary protective measure[s]" against a group with a low drug arrest rate and low overall crime rate, this quote may help provide an answer:
Choi Young-hee, a Democratic Party lawmaker, said a bill is being prepared to include crimes committed by foreign teachers while in Korea when they seek employment.
This was written by Lee Eun-ung, the head of anti-English Spectrum, (otherwise known as the citizens’ movement to expel illegal foreign language teachers), back in February of this year, more than three months before these bills were announced to the public.

A month before he wrote those words, he wrote this post at Anti-English Spectrum. In that post, dated January 14, he said that he had met Choi Young-hee in her office that morning and, as he describes elsewhere,
requested that the E-1 visa [procedures] include criminal background check reports. Requested that a reporting system be established that will allow the mandatory reporting by hagwons to Offices of Education whenever sex crimes by foreigner teachers occur.
These photos accompanied Lee's visit.




Of course it's hard to be certain if the uneasiness that is felt regarding English teachers which is driving Choi to pursue these bills despite a low crime rate is due to Lee Eun-ung's visit, or due to the climate of distrust Lee and the Citizen's Movement to Expel Illegal Foreign Language Teachers have helped to shape over the past four and a half years.

[Update:
This is a response to a comment below; most of the information came from Benjamin Wagner.]

The policy memo (2007.11) which led to criminal record checks, drug checks and HIV checks (with marijuana tests being removed in Marhc 2008) never really had legal weight, as Benjamin Wagner pointed out in his report to the NHRCK. While immigration argued (in the press for example) that the memo had all the legal authority they required, the fact that they took what was in the policy memo and released it as a "regulation" (시행규칙) on April 3, 2009 suggests that they believed more legal authority was needed. Wagner told me that this "regulation" still doesn't have the authority required to overcome the rights being infringed upon and other laws already in place (such as laws pertaining to immigration and AIDS), and that an Act from the National Assembly is still needed.

Four Bills have been submitted to the National Assembly in the last year. Bill No. 3356, introduced on Dec. 30, 2008, aims to amend the immigration control act and the purpose statement reads: "Nowadays, the number of foreigners working in Korea is increasing, but a good many have previous convictions for drug and sexual crimes or carry infectious diseases. As we require measures to deal with the threat they pose to our society's public order and our people's health, we herein prepare the legal basis to require that foreigners applying for an employment visa submit a criminal background check and a health certificate." [Quoted from here.]

As I mentioned before, a comment using language from an article written by Lee Eun-ung of Anti-English Spectrum has been placed in the official record of this Bill. The three most recent bills, from June, are mentioned above and aim to amend the Education act, re-introducing tests for marijuana, and declaring a need for Korean criminal record checks. And, as mentioned above, Lee Eun-ung has left his fingerprints on these bills as well...

5 comments:

Chris in South Korea said...

An excellent post as usual - I'm just trying to figure out what the news is here. We're already being drug tested and education / diplomas verified - whether that's been done on some official addendum or a court order as of now, making this law just sounds like a formality of something already done. Or am I missing something?

Since the bills have merely been proposed, how do these things find their way to a committee, a vote, a signing? I'll admit to my lack of knowledge on how a bill becomes law here in Korea...

Breda Blog said...

I thought the same thing...don't we already get drug and HIV tested, as well as criminal record checks?

Shin Gu said...

It sounds like they are trying to expand the background check to one in Korea - though I find it a bit surprising if Korean immigration didn't already do this. Either way, it seems more like opportunism from what I've read (But then again, what do I know?)

matt said...

The policy memo (2007.11) which led to criminal record checks, drug checks and HIV checks (with marijuana tests being removed in Marhc 2008) never really had legal weight, as Benjamin Wagner pointed out in his report to the NHRCK. While immigration argued (in the press for example) that the memo had all the legal authority they required, the fact that they took what was in the policy memo and released it as a "regulation" (시행규칙) on April 3, 2009 suggests that they believed more legal authority was needed. Wagner told me that this "regulation" still doesn't have the authority required to overcome the rights being infringed upon and other laws already in place (such as laws pertaining to immigration and AIDS), and that an Act from the National Assembly is still needed.

Four Bills have been submitted to the National Assembly in the last year. Bill No. 3356, introduced on Dec. 30, 2008 aims to amend the immigration control act and the purpose statement reads: "Nowadays, the number of foreigners working in Korea is increasing, but a good many have previous convictions for drug and sexual crimes or carry infectious diseases. As we require measures to deal with the threat they pose to our society's public order and our people's health, we herein prepare the legal basis to require that foreigners applying for an employment visa submit a criminal background check and a health certificate." [Quoted from here.]

As I mentioned before, a comment using language from an article written by Lee Eun-ung of Anti-English Spectrum has been placed in the official record of this Bill. The three most recent bills, from June, are mentioned above and aim to amend the Education act, re-introducing tests for marijuana, and declaring a need for Korean criminal record checks. And, as mentioned above, Lee Eun-ung has left his fingerprints on these bills as well...

ROK Hound said...

Yes, we are getting checked now, but such checks are not LAW. These bills are to resolve that little legal quibble.