The Korean government's move to add new drug tests for an English teaching or E-2 visa is drawing protests from foreign teachers. From this Thursday, those who want to obtain the visa should receive an additional "cannabinoids" drug tests, which detects marijuana, on top of a "TBPE," the Ministry of Justice said.What this beginning does is set things up to look like teachers are opposed to being tested for marijuana, and that the focus of the new regulations (and the foreign English teacher reaction to them) is on these tests. If you look at the discussion at Dave's ESL cafe, the main concern has been about this, mentioned [sort of] much further down in the article:
In addition, the agency will require English-teacher hopefuls to prove the authenticity of their college degrees, as well as criminal background documents from their governments.What the article doesn't bring up is that the criminal record checks to be required by immigration will now be federal criminal record checks (by the FBI in the US or the RCMP in Canada), which, while more far reaching (a local check can miss crimes committed in other states, for example), the fact that they take up to four months to receive is of concern. I did enjoy this quote regarding marijuana tests, however:
"Those who habitually use marijuana could stop the drug for a while in order to have negative results on the cannabinoids test. But it would be better than not doing the test," said Yoo Byung-kil, a KIS official. "We will designate more hospitals for the checks."Well, thank you Mr. Yoo for pointing out that the tests are for symbolic purposes only. This is also interesting:
The immigration agency plans to remove the HIV-AIDS test following advice from international communities that it is discriminative against AIDS patients.I wonder if that is based on a quote from immigration, or if it's just based on this article from last September in which KIS spokesman Ahn Kyu-seok said, referring to the petition with the Constitutional Court against HIV and drug tests,
"However, if the Constitutional Court rules that making foreign instructors submit documents on HIV tests is unconstitutional, we may have to scrap the requirement," Ahn added.The lack of a direct quote from immigration makes me wonder how true it is that the "immigration agency plans to remove the HIV-AIDS test." There are also several quotes which reveal foreign English teachers to be "angry" and "up in arms":
"The level of media coverage given to alleged drug crimes and acts of violence by native speaker English teachers seems to be completely disproportionate. We are seldom given reliable statistics concerning actual convictions, and even when these are given, it is clear to see that these apply to a tiny minority of those working as English teachers in this country," said Mike Long of Daegu National University of Education.I should have warned before posting those quotes that the anger in them might be contagious. As for "an unemotional, logical review of the facts of the case," I think it's pretty clear the quote was sent over email, because it would be hard to get through it with a straight face when speaking. One for reason for saying this is this section of the article:
"It is little wonder that native speaker English teachers claim there is a xenophobic agenda directed against them when the magnitude of the response of the Korean government, in terms of ever more draconian immigration requirements, simply does not match the actual numbers of cases."
Greg Dolezal, president of the Association for Teachers of English in Korea (ATEK), said, "We also believe strongly that any legislation aimed at protecting children from abuse should be applied equally to all teachers, and should not discriminate based on nationality, race, or any other demographic. [...]
According to recent statistics, there were 23,600 E2 visa holders in Korea at the end of June 2010, Dolezal of ATEK said.
"From Jan 2007 to Aug 2009, 274 English-teaching E2 visa holders were convicted of crimes. This implies a crime rate equivalent to seven-tenths of a percent," he said. "We stand with Korean families, educators, and the law in hoping for impartial justice for all concerned in this situation. We hope, for all concerned, that a fair and thorough investigation follows. We have the utmost faith that even at a time of heightened public attention to sexual abuse cases, a judgment will be reached after an unemotional, logical review of the facts of the case."
Immigration officials said that a bill proposed by Rep. Choi Young-hee, would further help to reduce crimes by foreign English teachers, once it is passed at the National Assembly.Nothing chuckleworthy there, but read on. As I noted about the bills (introduced last June) here, Bill 5062 applies 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.” Nothing is said there about checks being "issued less than one month prior."
The bill seeks to obligate all native English teachers, whether they are ethnic Koreans or not, to present criminal and drug test results that were issued less than one month prior to them landing a teaching position.
Also, the term “native English teachers” (원어민교사), and not specifically E-2 visa holders is used in the bills. When an aide of Choi Young-hee talked to Ben Wagner last June, he said the bill applies only to E-2 visa holders, but now the Times is saying that the bills apply to "all native English teachers, whether they are ethnic Koreans or not." Choi's aide also told Wagner that the criminal background checks called for in the bills are national (as in, Korean) criminal checks. “The Aide said this is to prevent foreigners with criminal records from getting a job.”
Now, Choi has been consistent on the issue of protecting children from sex crimes. At the time the three bills for native-speaking English teachers were introduced last June, five bills aimed at Korean teachers were also introduced, and it was Choi who, in the wake of the Na-yeong incident, released these statistics about sex crimes by Korean school teachers (via Brian in Jeollanam-do):
A total of 124 sexual crimes involving elementary and secondary school teachers were reported to the education authorities between 2006 and 2009. Among them, 47 involved prostitution, 43 were sexual harassment and five were rape cases.Her office also told Wagner that she considered the HIV tests to be discriminatory and did not include them in the bills (though that's not what the Korea Times reported). On the other hand, the reasoning behind the 3 bills related to foreign English teachers has no reliable statistics to back it up. As Ben Wagner described it last year,
However, only eight teachers (6 percent) were given prison sentences, while 31 were not indicted and 28 received suspended sentences.
I pressed for stats for the statements [in the bills' statement of purpose] "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."As well, when Choi did interviews to promote the bills last year, she announced that immigration had lost 22,000 teachers, but had used the wrong statistics, and never corrected her error. Instead of "an unemotional, logical review of the facts of the case," Choi's office used incorrect statistics, offered no evidence that "the crime rate among native English teachers is getting higher," and said something akin to 'I think I read it somewhere,' when asked for statistics regarding foreign teachers convicted of crimes being rehired - which are the main rationale (if you could call it that) behind the bills. Call me "angry," or "up in arms," but it's hard to get behind a bill like this when those who wrote it are unable to back up their reasons for it at all.
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.
Also worth reading is Brian's post on all of this.