Over the past five years South Korea has enthusiastically recruited tens of thousands of foreign English teachers as part of its globalization efforts. Demanding parents and government promises of “a native speaker in every school” have seen the number of foreign teachers in public schools more than triple in that time. During the same period, however, there have been several notable incidents of xenophobia and discriminatory animus. Increased social contact, especially between foreign English teachers and Korean women, has triggered traditional fears of cultural contamination and miscegenation. The resulting hostility and suspicion, in their most extreme forms, have been expressed through the metaphor of AIDS. An influential citizens’ group has claimed that foreign teachers are infecting Koreans with HIV. Concomitantly, the South Korean government has instituted discriminatory HIV restrictions for foreign teachers that it claims are necessary to “ease the anxiety of citizens” and “assure the parents” of schoolchildren being taught by non-Koreans. The HIV restrictions against foreign teachers are both the most recent as well as the final remaining HIV restrictions against foreigners in South Korea, which has a history of HIV restrictions against foreigners dating back to the late 1980s. This Article traces the origins of the mandatory in-country HIV/AIDS tests for foreign teachers within this genealogy of restrictions and attempts to explain why the current measures were introduced and why they have remained in place even after all other HIV restrictions against foreigners have been removed.
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