Thursday, October 22, 2009

Another foreign English teacher protests HIV test

Michael Solis, who wrote about Andrea Vandom's case in the Huffington Post, has a similar piece at Ohmynews, as well as a follow up piece with new information about another foreign teacher protesting the HIV and drug tests who did not have her contract renewed after refusing to take further HIV and drug tests:
When Lisa arrived to Korea in August 2008, she took the HIV and drug tests, though she was shocked by the lack of privacy and professionalism during the testing process. She reported that the waiting room was packed with foreigners holding lidless urine samples. She also never saw the doctors who processed the samples and carried out the blood tests wear gloves or wash their hands, even between patients.

Lisa's reservations peaked when she returned to the hospital with her Korean co-teacher to collect her results. The hospital personnel handed the results to the co-teacher, unsealed, and had a brief discussion about the results before Lisa took the paper from them. Lisa presumes the Education Office also received a copy of her results.

"I found the whole process humiliating and was relieved to think I wouldn't have to do it again, even if I decided to stay for longer than a year," she writes.

Lisa was offered a second contract and agreed to it. At the time, she was not aware of the repeat testing policy. Soon after the Ulsan Education Office informed her that retesting was part of the re-contracting process.

Lisa wanted to know why she needed to take the tests again if she had already been through the immigration process. She also wanted to know if her Korean co-workers were subject to the same policies. When asked, the Education Office was not forthcoming with answers, and one representative sent her a message saying, "I think foreigners are caught in drug and ADIS (sp) are not qualified well as teacher."[...]

Following the release of Wagner's report to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, Lisa filed her own complaint at the Commission. She also put in a request with the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board for mediation, a case that has recently been accepted for arbitration.
As it says on their website, the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board provides "Proper, Impartial Rapid Settlement of Disputes", including contract disputes.

On the one hand, there's this: "I think foreigners are caught in drug and ADIS (sp) are not qualified well as teacher." I didn't realize catching a virus made you 'unqualified' to teach. One finds it ironic that in a country where hygiene is not practiced well (lack of soap, spitting in the streets, not covering one's mouth when coughing or sneezing), contraception is barely discussed, and where 'social vectors' like hagwons help spread sickness, being infected with any sickness would be stigmatized. Generally it seems to be 'foreign' illnesses that carry any kind of stigma or fear, such as AIDS or H1N1 (note all of the festivals being cancelled this fall on account of the latter).

On the other hand, there is this:
The response from Lisa's co-workers and bosses was wholly supportive, once they understood her reasons. One co-worker told her, "I hope you fight and win."
So do I.


Chris in South Korea said...

Then again, we haven't *yet* heard of any diseases starting here in Korea and spreading worldwide...

If you ever want to watch a Korean sqiurm, ask them if they're xenophobic. After they say no / of course not / I like foreigners, ask them who they think catches more diseases (percentage-wise, of course). We're all a lot more alike than you think there, buddy.

Go Lisa - and Andrea :)

Unknown said...

Haha Chris, that's so true! My ex co-teacher, bless, would tell me how much she liked foreigners... and then spend the next 3 days telling me that Koreans don't get HIV/AIDS or swine flu "because we eat kimchi".

She never squirmed while saying it though...

Mike said...

Like all government teachers (I think) I had to do a twice-annual physical recently. Tests for all sorts of stuff... results said I was at risk for heart and lung problems due to my lack of exercise but the really funny bit was that I was at risk for tuberculosis.

Look it up. North Americans don't contract TB nearly as much as Asians. A disease spread by spitting, coughing, and sneezing.

Sharon said...


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