Thursday, September 24, 2009

How to make foreign English teachers an AIDS threat in 5 easy steps

Step 1:

Find any innocuous information that might connect the target group to AIDS and exaggerate it to show it in the most negative light possible in order to create fear.

Prior to the new E-2 visa regulations introduced in late 2007 which required foreign language teachers to submit HIV tests, only a handful of articles appeared in the media which mentioned English teachers when discussing HIV or AIDS.

The first was an August 14, 2006 Donga Ilbo article titled "Foreign AIDS infection rate 10 times that of domestic." This article bases that statement on the statistics that the 2005 rate of HIV infection among Koreans was 1.4 per 100,000, while the rate among foreigners in Korea was 11.1 per 100,000. It then notes that one problem is that illegal immigrants aren't tested, and so could be a source of further infections. One paragraph reads:
There are six HIV counseling centers in Korea that are available for Koreans, but for foreigners there is only one place: the international HIV/AIDS clinic in Itaewon, Seoul. An official at the [Itaewon] clinic said, "Mostly white collar foreigners, such as English teachers, visit our clinic, and we have almost no illegal immigrant foreigners."
The underlying idea of the article is that getting tested is beneficial to public health, and the fact that illegal immigrants not getting tested is a problem.

On September 8, 2006 this article at the website of the Korean Alliance to Defeat AIDS read:
Kim Ji-young of the AIDS Prevention Center says without hesitation that “Korea’s men are the biggest victims of AIDS.” After seeing the attitude of a foreign English teacher after he/she found out that he/she was infected with AIDS, she says that she was very shocked by the difference in thinking that is still deeply rooted in our society.[...]

"There is too much of a clear difference in the way people view the disease and how they view those who are infected, and therefore it is a reality that people infected with AIDS within our society can only live buried under the shadows. It is now time to pull them up out into the light, and altogether be concerned and find a solution together.[...]
However, those working at the Daegu branch of the AIDS Prevention Center say that the inveterate thinking of our society that is influenced deeply by Confucian views on sex is extremely difficult to improve. Double-standards regarding sex, and excessive sexual contact purely for pleasurable pursuits that are loudly bragged about as if relating heroic stories … these are the structural ironies of our society’s thinking.
In a mostly unpublished interview for this article, the aforementioned Kim Ji-young of the AIDS Prevention Center explained why she was 'shocked' [thanks to Adam Walsh for sharing this]:
In 2005, a foreign English teacher came to our center for a HIV/AIDS test. The result was positive. When we informed him with the results, he was rather calm and said it wasn’t a "big deal" and told us he was going to go back to the States after a week. He further mentioned that he wasn’t too shocked with the results because he was taught since elementary school that HIV/AIDS is not fatal if taken good care of. This was quiet surprising for me since the reaction was so different from Koreans. Normally when Koreans are informed of such a result, they start crying and act as if it's the end of the world.
A day after the article "Foreign AIDS infection rate 10 times that of domestic" appeared at both and, two comments were left at the article at Naver by m2t24 - Lee Eun-ung.

While the other comments had discussed illegal immigrants, his had a different focus. In the first comment, he wrote,
So, at the counseling center, they say that there are many native speaking teachers... Parents, let's raise awareness.
Seven minutes later, he wrote,
It is funny. Why would an educator be visiting an AIDS counseling center? ... Native speaker English teachers!! Parents, your children are being exposed to danger.

On September 9, almost four weeks later, Lee wrote a post on the Anti English Spectrum site titled "This is serious!!! (Concerns about AIDS after sex with foreigner teacher)" In it he writes:
"Not long ago I read in a Donga Ilbo news article that white collar workers and foreign teachers frequented an Itaewon AIDS center. [...] There are too many people trembling from the fear of AIDS after having sex with foreign English teachers. Now the problem of low quality native speaking teachers has reached as far as AIDS."
This was followed by stories written by two Korean women; the source is unknown:
I went to a bar and accidentally met with a foreigner teacher (a teacher at a children’s English hagwon who had Canadian citizenship) and had sex with him.
We used a condom but we also had oral sex (he did not ejaculate in my mouth). I am so afraid that I cannot sleep. I am too afraid that I could not even go to get tested.
In the case of foreigner teachers, do they get health tests when they enter the country?

Normally I am never involved in promiscuous sexual relationships… It was just this one time, and I am so, so worried.

If by any chance that foreigner has AIDS, would I also be infected? I am so worried that I have even lost my appetite.
Please give me an answer.


I had sex with a foreigner teacher one week ago. I got to know him as an Internet friend and met up with him… we had some drinks and I went to that friend’s home… This friend lives in OOO, and his character is lively and vivacious… He said that he’s been teaching English at a hagwon in Korea for one year.

I don’t know… He’s come to Korea and has been here up until now… and his friends also seem to be okay…

But then I had sex once with this friend and in the middle of it he started to bleed, so we stopped and he cleaned his penis (or we both cleaned our genitals?) and [we] went to sleep… Later on, he told me that it was because he had weak blood vessels… and that he had allergies… he is 22 years old… I don’t have any recent sores around my genitals, but we did not use any condoms… He said that it was his first time with a Korean.
These comments were left by members at the bottom of the page:
메머드: That is really serious… AIDS after [sexual] relations…
가온: I think it would be a good idea to get tested.
메머드: It would be essential for you to get various tests, including tests for STDs, when you get married…
As is noted in this Breaknews story, which was published later,
The reason why 'Inside Story' decided to report on this issue was because we received information about an AIDS Counseling Center online bulletin board where many Korean women were continuously submitting complaints about their anxieties regarding AIDS infections after having sex with a foreigner.
This 'AIDS Counseling Center online bulletin board' was the likely source of the above stories, but instead of trying to assuage their anxieties, AES used these stories to spread such anxieties as widely as they could.

The same day a look at how AIDS tests operate within the visa system was posted, with the focus on how illegal foreign teachers on tourist visas do not receive health tests.

In a post the next day about a native English teacher 'AIDS horror story', readers are told "There is an 'AIDS horror story' saying that infected foreigners are indiscriminately spreading the virus."

[A full page but less readable screen shot is here.]
Have you heard of the native speaker English teacher AIDS horror story…

The truth behind the “AIDS horror story” circulating around Itaewon.

Infected foreigners are indiscriminately spreading [AIDS].
The “AIDS horror story” of Itaewon.

Recently, there is an “AIDS horror story” - saying that “foreigners infected with AIDS have been indiscriminately spreading the AIDS virus” - that has been circulating around places where foreigners gather, such as Itaewon. The rumor says that AIDS infected people are deliberately approaching people to have sex in order to spread the AIDS virus.

Recently, an “AIDS horror story” that is being spread around Itaewon, says that some foreigners who are infected with AIDS have been deliberately approaching other foreigners or Koreans in places such as nightclubs with the goal of spreading the AIDS virus.

It is said that those infected with AIDS have various citizenships and jobs, and include foreign workers, native speaker English teachers, nightclub dancers, etc. Other than those foreigners who reside in Korea, there are also foreigners who are said to visit Korea temporarily in order to spread the AIDS virus – they stay for a little while and then leave the country.

One waiter “A” who works at an Itaewon nightclub that has many foreigner patrons, says, “Recently, there is an AIDS horror story that has been circulating around nightclubs where foreigners tend to gather. However, because nobody knows who is infected with AIDS or not, suspicions only grow larger.”

The methods that these AIDS-infected foreigners mostly use are deliberate sexual relations and deliberate blood donations.

In the case of deliberate blood donations, the possibility of the AIDS-infected person being revealed is high, and [therefore] his or her personal identity will be exposed, so this rumor is a bit unbelievable.

However, in the case of deliberate sexual relations, it is easy to approach people and difficult to expose [the identity of] the person, so it is said that the possibility of AIDS-infected foreigners choosing this method is high.

However, it is not known yet whether a foreign AIDS-infected peoples’ organization is responsible for inciting these people, or whether it is the infected foreigners within Korea just working amongst themselves. The only truth known from the rumor is that these people are spreading AIDS in order make their existence known.
The waiter “A” says, “These AIDS-infected people also deliberately spread the virus in order to let their existence be known.” He goes on to explain, “I heard the rumor that some people spread AIDS because they feel it is ‘unfair to suffer alone’ and also it is very certain that there are foreigners who are infected with AIDS.”

An official at the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention said, “There is little probability that someone will be infected by AIDS as long as that person does not have sex with a foreigner. However, if the rumors are true, then Koreans who have had sexual contact with a foreigner will almost all contract AIDs.”
To help support this Lee added a photo (since removed) and text taken from the Korean Alliance to Defeat AIDS article from September 8:
Kim Ji-young of the AIDS Prevention Center says without hesitation that “Korea’s men are the biggest victims of AIDS.” After seeing the attitude of a foreign English teacher after he/she found out that he/she was infected with AIDS, she says that she was very shocked by the difference in thinking that is still deeply rooted in our society.
Lee has twice taken a reference to foreign English teachers and AIDS and removed it from its original neutral or, in this case, positive context and used it to give support to the idea that foreign English teachers have AIDS, and that "Koreans who have had sexual contact with a foreigner will almost all contract AIDs."

Similar versions of the 'Itaewon AIDS horror story' can be found more recently here and here. Of course, I couldn't see the term 'AIDS horror story' (에이즈 괴담) without being reminded of the 'mad cow horror stories' that helped set off last year's mad cow protests - something also noticed at this blog at It might also be worth noting that the story of an American missionary who injects a Korean boy with 'deadly germs' in order to kill him - in Han Sorya's 'Jackals' (1951) - is one of North Korea's most enduring novels. [See B.R. Myers' presentation here.]

The same day the 'AIDS horror story' was posted, September 10, a picture of an 'AIDS mummy' was also posted.

As should be clear, Anti-English Spectrum's method has been to take whatever snippets of information they could find which might imply a connection between foreign English teachers and AIDS and spin them in the worst possible way in order to create fear, and considering how taboo a topic AIDS is in Korea, creating fear - and interest - is not difficult to do.

Step 2:
Feed this information to the media.

On September 15 Lee wrote a post titled "Things are about to take off!"

This low quality native speaker teacher story is no joke. It is a big deal on Dreamwiz and Agora also...

Soon the AIDS native speaking teacher issue will take off... Get ready to freely spread the resources and original materials. Low quality native speaking teachers and AIDS... It was the truth!!!!!111111111111111 Please wait and see."
BreakNews had already published five articles about foreign English teachers that summer; the first article focused on Anti-English Spectrum, while the rest quoted a 'Mr. Kim' or 'Mr. K' - a member of the 'movement to counter low quality foreign teachers' - as an informant. 'Mr. Kim' was described as being 37 years old - the same age as Lee Eun-ung - and in the second BreakNews article, he could be seen in a pixelated photo.

On October 29, 2006, that BreakNews article was reposted at Anti-English Spectrum, and in the comments, members thanked 'Mr. Kim'. 'M2' - Lee Eun-ung, the manager and public face of the site - coyly wrote "I'm curious about Mr. Kim;..." Regular poster 'jasminhyang' later wrote in a comment "the first letter of Mr. Kim's nickname is 'm'." In a Breaknews article published two days later, Mr. K also makes comments, and is described as "Low quality native speaking teacher deportation site manager Mr. K," also suggesting this is a pseudonym for Lee Eun-ung.

On September 18, a post appeared with the title "Breaknews (AIDS Foreign teacher) wide distribution!!!"

"Today it's come! Till now [the idea that English teacher are AIDS infected] hadn't risen from the internet! The report's in terminals, convenience stores, subways!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

The report is the BreakNews article "Tracking [down] blacklisted foreign teachers suspected of having AIDS." The end of this article has an interview with 'Mr. K'. The interview is titled "Protection of human rights first, behind the protection of citizens; Enhance the E-2 visa, to reduce risk of HIV infection." In it, 'Mr. K' states the following:
It is a fact that we are now exposed to more open sexual cultures and more dangerous situations, and [Korean] women who have met with foreigners are crying out over their anxieties regarding AIDS. It is inevitable that the levels of danger will increase when we consider the teachers who have entered on tourist visas, or illegally sojourning foreigner teachers that related authorities are not even capable of keeping track of.

[In response to those who would call his perspective "exclusivist/xenophobic"] This is not an exclusivist/xenophobic view; this is a matter of the survival of Korean women. They [foreigners] have entered Korea and are enjoying personal rights, but if Korean women are being exposed to the threat of AIDS, isn’t it right for the government to at least put some effort into blocking the source of the problem through [enhancing] the E-2 visa requirements?
Just for fun this picture at the top of the article is of President George W. Bush's former U.S. Global AIDS coordinator Randall L. Tobias being publicly tested for HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia in an effort to fight AIDS stigma.

Step 3:
Write petitions to or contact relevant government agencies and cite the news articles you have contributed to as proof that there is a problem.

The next day, September 19, a petition to the Ministry of Justice asking for health checks for E-2 visa holders was posted at Anti English Spectrum, and on September 28, a petition to the Ministry of Justice asking for mandatory HIV tests and criminal record checks for foreign English teachers on E-2 visas was posted. To prove that there was a need for these, both petitions used quotes from and made reference to the BreakNews article, as well as the SBS 'Seven Days' report "Unverified foreign English teachers are a danger to children", both of which Anti English Spectrum claims credit for.

They would continue to post several petitions sent to the Ministry of Justice asking for health tests for either HIV, STDs or drugs, as well as criminal record checks, until the end of the year. Other petitions would be sent in June 2007 which made reference to the episode of Pandora's Box that they contributed to.

In just a month and a half, Lee twisted the meaning of two brief references to English teachers voluntarily getting tested for HIV in order to connect the 'problem of native speaking English teachers' to AIDS, found frightened women and spread internet rumours in the form of a horror story to try to give this claim more substance, got a lengthy story presenting this view published in online (BreakNews) and newspaper (Inside Story) media, and then cited the articles or news stories they contributed to in petitions to the Ministry of Justice.

Step 4:
Repeat as necessary.

On April 5, 2007, a post by Lee titled "Illegal Native Speaking English Teachers reported" appeared at Anti-English Spectrum:

It notes tips on several foreign English teachers. Among them us 'A', from Australia, who is said to be responsible for an "AIDS scare against a Korean person" and who has re-entered the country and is staying in a guest house. As Lee Eun-ung wrote in theWeekly Kyunghang in February 2009:
In spring of 2007, our group received a tip from a woman who wanted help. A teacher from Australia threatened her, saying he’d had sex without a condom in southeast Asia and she should be careful of AIDS, too. The tip also said the teacher was loitering around her place, trying to terrify her. After this writer and others pursued him with the cooperation of relevant authorities, he was finally arrested by police in the capital region after living at a guest house in Seoul.
What Lee leaves out is that this tip was fed not to BreakNews, but to the Sports Chosun, followed by and the Chosun Ilbo, and articles appeared there on May 27 and 28, 2007. Getting this story into one of Korea's biggest newspapers was certainly a propaganda success for Anti English Spectrum, especially in identifying the race of the culprit:

Sports Chosun: "From molestation to AIDS threats - Shocking perversion of some English teachers; Beware the 'Ugly White Teacher.'" [Links: English Korean] "From Molestation to AIDS threats - 'Shocking' perversion of some foreign teachers" [Link]
Chosun Ilbo: “White English Teacher Threatens Korean Woman with AIDS.”[Links: Korean English]

As Lee wrote,
After this writer and others pursued him with the cooperation of relevant authorities, he was finally arrested by police in the capital region after living at a guest house in Seoul.
Whether or not he was actually involved in catching the culprit, the content of the Chosun articles carrying Anti English Spectrum's 'White foreign English teacher = AIDS' propaganda was referred to when his capture was reported on July 2, 2006 (with Anti-English Spectrum claiming they contributed to the SBS news report):

SBS News: "Faked Backgrounds, Molestation...'Wonderful Native-Speaking Teachers.'" [Link]
Kyunghyang Shinmun : "More Foreign Teachers with Faked Backgrounds and Zero Moral Character Exposed" [Link]
Segye Ilbo: "Unqualified Shameless English Teachers... Faked Backgrounds and Molestation" [Link]
Yonhap: "Lots of English Teachers with Fake Backgrounds Exposed"[Link] [Published also in the Chosun Ilbo and Joongang Ilbo]
NoCut News: Shocking Foreign English Teacher 'From Molestation to Stalking' [Link]
Chosun Ilbo: "Native Speaking English Teacher Pattern" [Link]

All of these articles make reference to the fact that he had 'threatened his Korean girlfriend with AIDS.'

Step 5:
Get invited to an immigration policy meeting and push to have the target group submit to HIV tests as a condition of their visa.

On October 23, 2007 - after finding out the wanted pedophile Christopher Paul Neil had taught English in Korea - a meeting was hosted by the Ministry of Justice titled “A Meeting with Experts and Related Organizations regarding Foreign Native Speaker Conversation Teaching (E-2) Teachers.” Invited to this meeting were officials from the Ministry of Justice, the foreign-policy division of the Immigration Office, representatives from the Ministry of Education and Human Resources and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Director of the Association of Foreign Language Academies, and Lee Eun-ung, chairman of the Citizens' Movement to Expel Illegal Foreign Language teachers.

Here's the post he put up at Anti-English Spectrum right after the meeting:

As Lee described it, he
emphasized that health check reports, [and] criminal offense reports should be included in documents required when native speaker teachers enter the country. Related organizations expressed agreement and said that these would be reflected in policies.
In December, the new E-2 visa requirements were announced, which included, along with criminal record checks and drug tests, tests for HIV status. Here is the E-2 Policy Memo:

As it notes, the 'Background of the Change[s] is the "Serious social outcry [caused by] the unqualified E2 teaching visa holders" due to "news media coverage about those unqualified E2 teaching visa holders." As noted above, all of the negative articles connecting English teachers with AIDS, even, in one case warning "Beware of the Ugly White Teacher," are the results of the efforts of Anti-English Spectrum.

Anti-English Spectrum's campaign against the phantom menace of foreign English teachers with AIDS, carried forward on the internet, in the media, in petitions to government agencies, and finally at the meeting which decided the new E-2 visa policy, had succeeded. Of course, this campaign was designed not to protect children or unsuspecting Korean women, but to make people think that "Koreans who have had sexual contact with a foreigner will almost all contract AIDS.”

This was made clear earlier this year, when a man who had unprotected sex with numerous women for years while knowing that he was HIV positive was reported in the media after being caught by police. Of course, since that man was Korean, and not foreign, it may be easy to understand why not a single word was written about him on Anti-English Spectrum's website.

For more information on this topic, do read Adam Walsh's Korea Herald article "Blurring line between hate, free speech."

[Note: As I've noted before, a statistic from the BreakNews' 2006 article about AIDS and foreign English teachers which Anti-English Spectrum contributed to was put into the official record of Bill 3356, which planned to extend HIV tests to everyone wanting a visa to work in Korea, but was never passed.]


Christina Fabiano™ said...

This is really fascinating. I worked in Korea for a year and now work in Poland. What a huge difference.

For a country breeding a race of "super-geniuses," they're pretty backwards.

Dan Luba said...

Nice post. Thanks.