Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ban Ki-moon urges E-2 visa HIV tests be dropped

But apparently certain organizations want them in place.

From the Canadian Press:
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging South Korea to scrap a requirement that foreign teachers take an HIV test, an official said Tuesday.

South Korea dropped a travel ban in January for most foreigners with the virus that causes AIDS, drawing praise from the United Nations. But it still requires foreign teachers, most of whom teach English, to take HIV tests. The ban is largely the result of pressure by parents.

In a meeting last week with Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik in Seoul, Ban urged that the HIV test requirement be abolished, said Yoo Sung-sik, a spokesman for Kim. Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, was in Seoul to attend a summit of the Group of 20 leading economies.

Kim told Ban he would carefully review the request, Yoo said.[...]

In South Korea, if foreign teachers test positive for the virus, the government reports the results to their employers. The government cannot deport them, but employers usually cancel the HIV-infected teacher's contract, their teaching visa is automatically nullified, and they then have to immediately leave South Korea, according to the Education Ministry.

Ban's request was first reported Tuesday by the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

Interesting. I don't think the Ministry of Education has been so upfront about this before, though, as I mentioned here, GEPIK has apparently fired three teachers for being HIV+ in the past. As for the Chosun Ilbo's article mentioned above (there's an English version here), it has an interesting sentence in it:
However, to accommodate the views of the Ministry of Education and students' parents' organization, HIV testing is still required only for foreign teachers who teach [such languages as] English.
Now, it has been said several times that 'parents support the HIV tests for teachers,' such as in the first article above ("The ban is largely the result of pressure by parents.") as well as here:
According to an unofficial survey by the Prime Minister’s Office, the majority of parents wanted solid evidence of their children’s teachers’ HIV status,” said an official of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
The Korea Herald described that survey in more detail:
Concerns were highlighted in a press release from the prime minister’s office on July 12 informing people of the results of a survey on whether or not HIV testing of foreigners should be abolished. In two surveys -- one of 500 men and women over 20, the other of 50 professionals (teachers, doctors) -- the results overwhelmingly indicated the desire to continue testing foreigners for HIV -- 80.7 percent for the former and 82 percent for the latter.
Nothing is said about the "500 men and women over 20" being "parents," but the 'parents have concerns, just look at this survey' line has been used several times now.

More concerning is the reference in the Chosun Ilbo article to the "students' parents' organization" which supported HIV tests. I have never heard of such an organization. There was an organization that wrote the Ministry of Health and Welfare, claiming to represent "parents of students and all citizens," and applauded them after it was announced that HIV tests would continue for E-2 visa holders. They also drew a link between the 'demands of parents' and the survey. That group, however, was Anti English Spectrum.

It seems the Chosun Ilbo has decided that describing AES as a 'citizen's group' is not enough. How fitting for the Chosun Ilbo, which has given AES a voice over the years in its various publications like Sports Chosun ("Beware the 'ugly white teacher'), Weekly Chosun, and, to help re-brand them as a "students' parents' organization."

Not that there's anything incorrect about this, I suppose. They've been 'concerned' about students and concerned with 'parents' for years now, as this earlier incarnation of their website, with its pictures of nationalist forefathers and the statement (in red) "Our homeland is protected by the blood of our ancestors" reveals:

I'm sure AES, with their concern for the nation's children, will have a great deal to say about the owner of a boarding academy booked for 19 sexual assaults against 7 female students aged 15-18 over 14 months (who the girls said acted like a pseudo cult leader saying sex with him would improve their test results).

(On an unrelated note, the Chosun Ilbo's glowing description of the "The 5 Korean Beauties of the Asian Games" begins with 16 year-old Son Yeon-jae.)

And with their concern over sexually transmitted diseases, I'm sure they also have much to say about the 9 year old girl who couldn't afford taekwondo fees who was raped three times by her instructor and given an std, and are busy arguing whether seven years in prison and 20 years wearing an ankle bracelet was really severe enough punishment. (From Korea Beat)

They're likely also debating whether a teacher in Cheongju went too far when he opened the windows and made his (male, it seems) high school students take off their shirts and sit in their cold classroom during self study session last week.

Let's see...

Four out of the 12 most recent posts are about Quincy Black (another shows their media contacts) and there's nothing about these recent cases (or any cases) of Korean children being abused by Korean teachers, and little on the threat posed to them by a Korean Canadian murder suspect. Which should tell you all you need to know about the "students' parents organization."


Anonymous said...

so when will the KT break the story? so titillating they can hardly refuse it and yet so off message they must be loathe to run it. imagine there must be an interesting debate over there. will Kang Shin Who get it or will it be Bae Ji-sook? how will it be spun? will Kang's favorite "student parents' organization" get mention? or will just the 'concerns of parents' be highlighted? guess we'll see by evening.

SeoulFinn said...

I'm sure the parents want the best for their kids, but... Only after the parents rise up en masse and demand for a "Safety Seat Law" for all cars carrying little children (and the police actually enforces this law!) they should worry about HIV. How many kids are being killed and maimed in the traffic every year? How many of them would still be alive if they only had been sitting in a safety seat or used seat belts? Many if not most.

Why AES isn't pursuing their fellow countrymen doing bad things to the kids and women? It isn't "media sexy" enough. Besides, by targeting soft targets like foreigners, who may be guilty or not, they don't have to live in the fear of being taken to the court for libel.

Anyway, good that BKM has criticized the current situation.

matt said...

It was on the Chosun Ilbo's site yesterday morning, so they've had plenty of time (to ignore it?). Now that it's in English I suppose they'll either feel something should be said, or that they can ignore it since it's in English elsewhere.


Careful with comparisons to the car accident death rate - you don't want this happening to you.

Anonymous said...

My favorite AES post is the sixth one from the bottom which reads, “I’m reporting a native English speaker who slapped an elementary school student on the cheek and yelled in a loud voice.”

What a riot.

Seriously, the group should just change its name to “Citizens for the Expulsion of Impure Blood from Corea Soil.”

Kimchimonkey said...

I against the hypocritical AES, and the nationalistic racism that they represent, along with most groups of their ilk. but what is so wrong about a country wanting to protect its boarders from a disease. I understand that the underlying reason could be racist, and probably not enacted on people inside the country to achieve that goal, but I can't see anything wrong with it. Teachers of children should have background checks. Countries should be able to protect their borders. I think it's that simple.

matt said...

Odd that in that post you mention they've left up the teacher's name and school - they normally take down that kind of thing, but perhaps because they think she's not in the country they haven't bothered.

Though they try to disguise their obsession with blood and miscegenation, it's never far from the surface.

Anonymous said...

M. Cory,

No one is arguing against background or health checks. These are good things. The problem, however, is that these standards are being applied unfairly only to E2 visa holders. Koreans and F-visa holders (who are just as likely to be “immoral”) are not subject to the same scrutiny or restrictions (though, as Matt pointed out in his post and in many others, the ones who have posed the most danger to students—by far—have been native Koreans and Gyopos). E2 visa holders are being unfairly singled out and given undue attention by AES, the media, and some politicians while Koreans and F-visa holders don’t quite cause the same stir.

The best policy would be for the Korean government to implement such screening procedures for everyone—Korean, Gyopo, Westerner, Indian, whomever.

Anonymous said...


i think they'll run a story, but i could be wrong. if i had to guess it'll be Bae Ji-sook as 'good cop' to Shin's 'bad cop' with a matter of fact report and a dash of 'parental concern' thrown in to follow up her early piece on the removal of the tests for the E-6 & E-9 visas.

i'd love to see Kang Shin Who write something of course - nothing is more entertaining than his brand of race baiting yellow journalism. but somehow i guess he'll stick to the AES comment board for now and slipping in a few insidious remarks about 'the native speakers' in other articles like the one on indian teachers.

matt said...

M. Cory:
I have no issue with criminal background checks - they should be applied across the board to people working with children (but they currently are not). The Ministry of Education and Ministry of Justice have said on different occasions that the HIV tests were implemented and continue for symbolic reasons, and not because of any belief that foreign teachers actually pose a threat. Singling out one small group of foreigners for the tests is both racist and ineffective. The tests are largely because of AES, who were invited to the policy meeting in 2007 where the tests were decided on, and who were responsible for two sensationalist articles [The latter titled "From molestation to AIDS threats - Shocking perversion of some English teachers; Beware the 'Ugly White Teacher'"] which were used as 'evidence' of a problem when petitioning the Ministry of Justice for HIV tests.

matt said...

I guess the problem in this case is that Kang can't go to the Education ministry and get someone to say, "The UN secretary general doesn't understand Korean culture." Having Ban at the UN seemed like such a good idea at first...

Anonymous said...

agreed. but I thought at least Kang could come up with a good headline like 'Foreign English Teachers with AIDS should Teach Children in Korea, says UN Boss'.

SeoulFinn said...


I don't want to attract any netizen attention to my humble person, but what can they really? Not much I'm afraid.

I'm in Seoul as a tourist (not working legally or illegally), meeting friends and former professors, reading boring academic books in cafes, and mostly minding my own business. I'm not even chasing skirts... although maybe I should: all work and no play is getting a tad boring. I'm untouchable! :P


If you feel like it, we can start an association you just described. That'd be a blast! If you want to start with easier task, how about lobbying for Safety Seat Law? I can smell Honorary Citizenship somewhere down the road.

Anyway, did you like the dissertation? Yup, it's I, "SF!" Take care!

Darth Babaganoosh said...

Only after the parents rise up en masse and demand for a "Safety Seat Law" for all cars carrying little children (and the police actually enforces this law!) they should worry about HIV.

Um, they will not rise up for this. You do know that Korea DID have such a law and it was the mothers themselves who shouted so loud in opposition to it that the government removed it soon after? Yes, Korean mothers love their children more than foreigners.

but what is so wrong about a country wanting to protect its boarders from a disease

Nothing wrong with protecting their borders. That's what entry bans are for. However, once you are already IN the country, the Korean Constitution should (ideally) protect your human rights--rights including protection from discrimination. Saying this one easily identifiable group (E2 holders) must get tested but it's not necessary for someone not in that group (Koreans, F2, F4, E1, E3, E7, etc)... is that not the definition of discrimination?

SeoulFinn said...

I did know about the law and that was the whole point of my post! ^^

Anonymous said...


I had a feeling that was you. As much I'd love to set up a group to advocate real change in Korea's EFL industry or car seats and become an honorary citizen, I'm quite certain that such activity is "beyond the scope" of my visa...

I did finish reading the dissertation and I found it really eye-opening. There’s a lot of good stuff in there I never knew about the way ancient Korean historiography worked and—even though he didn’t explicitly touch on it—how modern Korean historiography distorts and frames certain past issues.

Anyways, I take you’re still in Seoul?
Any luck with finding your own thesis topic?


Sorry to hijack your comment thread.

matt said...

No worries. You mentioned this before: "they’d be going apes**t over the wanted murderer, the Gyopo pedophiles[...]". Which pedophiles are those? It was mentioned in a comment here awhile back that the Daegu case this summer (where the guy fled to the US) involved a Gyopo, but I've never come across evidence of that. (The Chosun Ilbo actually gave a name for the guy). Is your comment a reference to that case (and do you know something I don't) or to another case?

Anonymous said...


Back when the whole Christopher Paul Neil thing was going on, I was talking to an old-timer around here and asked him if that was the first case of a child molester teaching English out here. He assured me it wasn’t and that back in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, “several” Gyopo English teachers had been arrested and/or deported for molesting or sexually assaulting their students.

However, I’ve spent the better part of the past few hours scouring Google, Naver, your site, MH, and various news sources and am not able to turn up anything. So either I’m mistaken, the guy I was talking to was making crap up (or repeating unsubstantiated rumors), those articles have yet to be published online, or those kinds of stories weren’t deemed newsworthy enough at the time. The closest I could find was an incident in 2006 that occured at an English camp where a Korean-American was accused of molesting middle school girls, though I’m not sure what the outcome of that case was.

So, I have no choice but to withdraw the "Gyopo pedophiles" part of my comment unless someone else can substantiate my claim. I did however come across more than enough "Gyopo gangster" and "Gyopo wanted murderer" stories to more than make up for it.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

Which pedophiles are those?

Probably referring to the English Village case a couple years back, as well as the other gyopo case around the same time