Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Accurately determining if E2s are alcoholics or drug addicts

On April 12, Doctor's News published the following article:
Foreign English teacher drug addiction 'verification' at hospitals
On General Hospital selected as 'Ministry of Justice conversation instruction employment medical exam institution'
Establishing a drug screening system... certification as excellent laboratory

Blood is being taken to check whether foreigners seeking jobs are addicted to drugs. Busan On General Hospital was selected by the Ministry of Justice as a "designated medical institution for conversation instruction (E2) required medical exams."

In order to ensure a safe learning environment for youth, the government has made it so that, from April 1, when native speaking instructors register conversation instruction requirements or receive permission for activities outside of residence, only medical exam certificates issued from medical institutions designated by the Justice Minister will be acknowledged in order to improve the system.

Due to English early education fever the demand for foreign instructors has increased, and, outside of foreign native speaking instructors who have received conversation instruction visas (E2 visa) and legally entered the country, cases of foreigners who come on tourist visas and teach English in hagwons and reside here illegally are increasing. Among foreign instructors who do not have legal visas, some have caused incidents which have led to social criticism and, along with it, increasing worries by parents.

Through the employment medical exam certificate, the Ministry of Justice will be able to distinguish whether a foreign English teacher is a drug addict or alcoholic.

Until April, foreign English instructors had gotten employment health checks at public health centers, but it was argued that it was not possible to accurately determine if they were alcoholics or drug addicts.

In order to secure reliable test results, the government will only acknowledge conversation instruction (E2) employment medical exam certificates issued by a fully equipped medical institution with a HIV exam system and a drug screening system including a cannabinoid test and a TBPE test confirming whether drugs such as marijuana, amphetamine, methamphetamine, heroin or philippon have been taken.

Busan On General Hospital said that to be hired, foreigners entering the country for conversation instruction have been verified, which will reduce the worries of parents and students.

On General Hospital director Jeong Geun said that, "Last October, we were recognized for our reliability and accuracy based on our cutting edge diagnostic testing equipment and excellent laboratory personnel." "With the accuracy and reliability of our test results, we can provide greater help in the important hiring of foreigners qualified for conversation instruction."
So, let me get this straight: "Among foreign instructors who do not have legal visas, some have caused incidents which have led to social criticism and, along with it, increasing worries by parents," but now these newly government-designated testing centers will take care of this by accurately testing... only teachers who are legally here on E2 visas. Well then, problem solved! Certainly, the way to figure out if these illegal teachers (who are increasing, so it's said, though there are no numbers to back that assertion and from my own experience it seems there are actually less teachers here on tourist visas now than there were 5 years ago) are alcoholics or drug addicts is to come up with more stringent tests for the... legal teachers. Makes sense.

As for this measure "reduc[ing] the worries of parents," the same thing was said by the Ministry of Justice back in 2007 when it announced new E-2 regulations:
[S]teps will be taken to regulate the entry of foreign teachers into the country [...] in order to prevent from living in Korea native speaking conversation instructors who arouse public criticism through their drug taking, molestation, and alcoholism. [...]

It is expected the unease of citizens caused by unqualified conversation instructors will be largely resolved by t
he Ministry of Justice's recent measures regarding conversation teachers which will make it possible to block drug users, those with criminal records and illegal conversation teachers who acquire visas using fake documents from entering Korea and stop unqualified conversation instructors who have entered the country without visas from teaching conversation illegally.
Three and a half years later, it seems the 'unease' with foreign English teachers hasn't gone anywhere - in fact, with more improvements to the E2 visa system announced last July, these new, improved drug tests (testing for amphetamine, methamphetamine, heroin and philippon - popular drugs with the E2 crowd!), and the removal of HIV tests for all foreigners except E2 visa holders (due to 80% of citizens polled disagreeing with them being done away with), it could be argued that the unease has increased. Or at least, that the unease is perpetual, with parents' stomachs kept churning in worry by periodic (and regular) news reports depicting the threat foreign English teachers pose to their children.

Oh, and it would seem the deaths (seemingly suicides while drunk) of two teachers in Busan - which left an editorial writer at the Busan Ilbo "aghast" that such people were teaching children and were also talked about in the media here and here - have influenced talk of testing to determine if teachers are alcoholics, something that generally has not been talked about in regards to foreign teachers* - possibly because even the lowest quality journalists might realize how hypocritical that might be.

[*An exception being the MoJ announcement above.]


I'm no Picasso said...

My favorite part is the part about needing cutting edge technology to determine whether or not a teacheris a drug addict or alcoholic. I mean... that would have to be one hell of a drug addict/alcoholic to only be detectable via medical exam.

Mr. Spock said...

Forgive my ignorance, but is alcoholism detectable by blood test? I thought that alcoholism was a dependency that has to be self-diagnosed.

SeoulFinn said...

Spock, I think they are talking about liver values. I found this:

"Liver enzyme is a protein that helps to speed up a chemical reaction in the liver. The activity of the liver enzymes - measured in the blood rsp. serum - does not only inform about available illnesses, but is affected also by excessive consumption of alcohol. Therefore the so-called liver values are used in the alcoholism diagnosis and for monitoring of abstinence, e.g. in the redistribution of the driving licence."

Anonymous said...

I know it's not the point you are making, but the article is all over the place. TBPE is not a blood test, and is not supposed to be used any more. Hospitals aren't "selected" as testing centers. They just apply. And the bit at the end implies that the center was selected in October but the process of recognizing testing centers and auditing them didn't start until this year.

Mr. Spock said...

Let's hope Korean businessmen never have to take this test to secure employment.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

Among foreign instructors who do not have legal visas, some have caused incidents which have led to social criticism and, along with it, increasing worries by parents.

1) Damn those illegal foreigners causing problems! We need to test the LEGAL foreigners even more!

2) If this illegal foreigner scourge is causing so many problems with mothers' stress levels, shouldn't something be done about the schools who hire them? Not a word said about punishing the Korean school owners who make it possible for illegals to teach here.

3) No word about testing the alcoholic** Korean teachers. Considering there are many multiples MORE Korean teachers than foreign teachers, you'd think the KT beating on their child would be more worrying to mothers. Maybe your child is getting beat because the KT is hungover from his last alcoholic binge.

**silly me... alcoholism is just another foreigners' disease. Koreans are not alcoholics because they don't drink alone (yes, actually said to me several times... apparently only people who drink alone are alcoholics... drink with a friend and you're okay)