Further involvement in the AIDS public opinion field was the group's successful influencing of foreign visa regulations using false statistics. Bill (3356), which is now at the National Assembly, is designed to allow AIDS testing for any foreigners coming into Korea on working visas. The bill contains a statistic which originates from Anti-English Spectrum, and has been quoted by the group's administrator in the media on numerous occasions. It states that in 2007 the Itaewon AIDS clinic performed 80 percent of its tests on foreign teachers and foreign white collar workers.I looked at this back in June, pointing out that the statistic first appeared in a Lee Eun-ung-penned Weekly Kyunghyang article in February in almost identical language, but that the 2007 date was wrong, which was noted by Benjamin Wagner here, and confirmed once more above. Another more interesting interview follows:
Korea AIDS/HIV Prevention & Support Center statistics for that year show that the 80 percent statistic is false. Furthermore, KHAP director Yu Sung-chal told Expat Living that the clinic "moved to Seongbuk-gu in 2006, so it makes no sense to say that the Itaewon clinic sent out these statistics."
When Assemblyman Lee Sang-jun, who is behind Bill (3356) was asked by the Herald about the false statistic, he stated that he got the stats from the Ministry of Justice, and that he does not remember who in the ministry he got them from. "I do go over statistics at times. But in this case, since they are not the vital issue here, but rather a reference, I didn't check the facts."This Wikipedia entry, in fact. So we know that the statistic is from the 2006 Breaknews article about AIDS and English teachers, seeing as the Itaewon clinic didn't exist in 2007, and, as a bonus, we know Breaknews article used a photo of a US government employee taken from Wikipedia. Of course, this is Breaknews we're talking about, so such a lack of professionalism isn't surprising, of course. What is interesting, however, is not only do we know that the commentary on Bill 3356 has a statistic lifted straight from an article penned by a member of Anti-English Spectrum, but according to Rep. Lee Sang-jun, the statistic came from the Ministry of Justice.
The same dubious statistic can be traced back even further. A petition from AES sent to the Ministry of Justice in 2006 bears the same 80 percent figure. Around this time, Anti-English Spectrum assisted in an online article that alleged the percentage was English teachers, leaving out the mention of white collar workers. The picture included with the article is of a white man giving a blood sample to a nurse -- presumably an English teacher, since the article is about EFL teachers -- with the caption once again mentioning the Itaewon AIDS tests.
As it turns out, the photo was a fake. The picture is of President George W. Bush's former U.S. Global AIDS coordinator being publicly tested for HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia in an effort to fight AIDS stigma. The same picture is on Wikipedia.
I'm sure no one is picking their lower jaw up off the floor upon reading that the Ministry of Justice uses a group like Anti-English Spectrum as a source of statistics, of course, especially considering the way national assembly representatives have been misusing them lately (see here, here, and here).
As noted in this post on Anti-English Spectrum's campaign to turn foreign English teachers into AIDS threats, one of the articles the misused was this September 8, 2006 article at the website of the Korean Alliance to Defeat AIDS:
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.[...]She meant she was shocked at the teacher's positive attitude, but AES used this as grist for their foreign English teacher = AIDS mill. The woman quoted above is also quoted in Walsh's article.
"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.[...]
When reached for comment, the director of the AIDS Prevention Center in Daegu did not have nice things to say about Anti-English Spectrum. "I think they are highly nationalistic and they treat foreigners as our enemies ... I do believe in freedom of speech, however, what they are sending out is highly controversial and might send out the wrong perception," said Kim Ji-young.There are some good interviews in that article - kudos to him for researching and writing it.
There's been some debate about the influence of AES, and while exaggerating it is not a good idea, downplaying it isn't either. As seen in their list of accomplishments, AES has claimed that they have contributed to many news articles and television news programs. While they may be exaggerating these, it's worth noting that there are more than a few articles out there which feature interviews with cafe manager Lee Eun-ung or which mention AES in the articles. And yes, while these include tabloids like Inside Story/Breaknews [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] and Sports Chosun, they also include the Chosun Ilbo, Chosun.com [1, 2,], Weekly Chosun, Donga Ilbo, Weekly Kyunghyang [1, 2], Seoul Shinmun [1, 2], Joongang Ilbo, the Korea Times[1, 2] and LA Times. Also worth noting is that first Chosun.com story from June 30 didn't just make the top of Chosun.com's homepage (as Brian pointed out), it made the top of the Naver.com homepage - an audience of millions.
Along with those AES was also publicly credited for the Pandora's Box TV show and publicly took credit for segments of 그것이 알고싶다 (which, in its irresponsible manner, brought the concept of 'foreign English teacher = child molester' into people's homes a year before Karr or Neil came to light). It's also likely a number of the articles it takes credit for are genuine - AES has a particular style, with either outlandish claims or blanket moral condemnation being readily apparent, that's not easy to miss. But even if AES had done little after forming, that might have been enough. The English Spectrum incident (see here and here) was what started the media representation of foreign English teachers as 'unqualified'. Still, I doubt things have gotten to the point where national assembly members publicly accuse foreign teachers of hidden crimes and speak of a foreign teacher 'problem' without a need to explain what this problem is without a bit of a push from somewhere. As I wrote in the comment section awhile back:
One of the things I find interesting to remember is that when the English Spectrum scandal broke in 2005, Oranckay - who had lived in Korea for almost 20 years at that point - said, "Whoop dee damn doo, this too will pass." But it didn't. Four and a half years later, I can look back over the last six months and find 10 articles or news clips featuring Lee. Before that the media reported on the occasional drug bust, and while you could argue it might be natural to look more closely at qualifications and drug use after the ES incident (though even the actions of the media and immigration (requiring transcripts) were responses to the clamor on the internet caused by the people who formed AES), the propensity for the media over the past few years to delve into the private lives of foreign teachers has been a result of AES feeding a lot of this information to the media. Much of this information has come from ex-girlfriends, which is ironic, considering AES considers such 'white groupies' to be, at best, misguided, and at worst, treasonous whores. In final summation, the shift in public discourse regarding foreign English teachers from 'people we ignore who get arrested for drugs sometimes' to 'unqualified, morally corrupt, permanently stoned, disease-carrying threats to Korean feminine virtue and childhood innocence' is in good part due to the propaganda efforts of Anti-English Spectrum, as well, of course, to the acquiescence of a media and government which is too often willing to believe the worst about foreigners - something the people behind the anti-US and anti-LMB protests in 2002 and 2008 understood and exploited very well.
So then the question is - what do we do about this?
Kushibo has suggested that it is the fact that AES is seen as the 'go to' organization for news media when it comes to getting juicy quotes for stories about foreign teachers, and the fact they seem to have people in the government listening to them, that is the greatest problem, and suggests submitting a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission. It sounds like a good idea to me.
As Tony has pointed out, information on how to file a complaint is here, while the online complaint application is here.
There is a lot of information out there already that could be used in complaints. I'll likely try to compile more in the near future.