Monday, December 10, 2012

CERD (and other) updates

It was 5 months ago today that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination accepted the complaint from a foreign teacher who refused to take an HIV test to renew her contract at a public school in Ulsan in 2009 and lost her job. The Korean media did not respond to a press release about the case in both English and Korean (a blog or two picked it up), though it did get vaguely mentioned in the NYT last week. Not only did the Korean media ignore the release, but one has to wonder if the ROK goverment is ignoring the CERD case as well. The deadline for Korea to respond (they had 3 months) is, as of today, 2 months past. Now, in truth, the 3 month deadline for Korea to reply is discretionary and the Committee could extend it for up to 4 months (a month at a time) before deciding to proceed and consider the case without a reply from the ROK. This seems to be what is happening, though perhaps it is understandable, considering the CERD has never had a case where the state failed to reply.

From the teacher's point of view, she has already been waiting for three years, and the ROK has already failed to address international concerns over the E-2 HIV testing on two occasions (mentioned at the end of this post). On the bright side, at the most recent Universal Periodic Review before the UN Human Rights Council (in which the domestic human rights records of all 192 UN Member States are reviewed every four years), the Canadian government "raised concerns about HIV and drug testing for E2 visa non-citizens," but since it was raised as an observation and not a recommendation, it is unlikely to get an official response when the ROK replies in March. (If I remember correctly, each country had one minute to raise its concerns.)

But then, on the down side, the ROK managed to somehow convince UNAIDS to place it on its 2012 list of 132 countries, territories and areas which "have no HIV-specific restriction on entry, stay and residence." One wonders how the ROK managed to get something that is untrue put on that list.

Also, when drug testing was expanded from E-2 visa holders to non-professional Employment (E-9), ship crew employment (E-10), or Working Visit (H-2) in August, I wondered if they would also be tested for HIV. Well, the form below for both E-2 and E-10 visa heath exams includes an HIV test:

I've assumed ever since Korea's 'removal of HIV restrictions [right before we host an international conference on AIDS in 2011 which would be embarrassing if we ban presenters from attending]' that other visa groups were also quietly being tested. This would suggest this suspicion is true, and is even more reason to be rather disappointed with the ROK's incorrect categorization on that UNAIDS list.

Mind you, no one should think for a moment should think this playing fast and easy with HIV regulations is limited to foreigners. This Hankyoreh article details some of the difficulties Koreans who live with HIV face in finding (and keeping) jobs due to health checks which either shouldn't include HIV tests or to companies who (incorrectly) claim that they're entitled to see such results.


K said...

Tsk, tsk. Sneaky. I hate to say it, but: vote with your feet or get ready for a long haul.

ZenKimchi said...

Has anyone contacted UNAIDS about that little error?

At the bottom of the page, it has this info:

For technical/policy information, please contact: Susan Timberlake | Tel: +41 79 500 6517 |

matt said...

Yes, they have been contacted.

Unknown said...

What will happen if they decide to process the case without a official response? Can the government be held accountable, really? My school has now forced me and some of my co-workers to get HIV testing 4 times this year and told us that if we do not get the test that they will cancel our visas. 4 Times in one year! They started by saying it was free (mandatory)medical checks. The last one was only an HIV test and we were told that it is Korean law. I want to challenge it but do not know if I can or should. What is the law on testing and frequency of testing?

matt said...


According to immigration, you should only be tested once, when you apply for your alien registration card at the start of a new visa. Education offices generally require it every time you renew a contract - this is usually a blanket policy at the provincial or city (or sometimes, as in the example of Gangnam, district) level. Do you know whether these demands for HIV tests is coming from the school itself or higher above. Do they include drug tests as well?

At any rate, I have a few more questions - feel free to email me at mattvanv at