Tuesday, September 23, 2014

HIV and drug testing for Korean Government Scholarship Program applicants

In 2011, the Korean Government Scholarship Program Guidelines for foreign students studying in Korea (see page 15 here (link downloads a pdf)) had to this to say health examinations for successful applicants:
Applicants have to submit the Personal Medical Assessment (included in the application form) when he/she apply for this program, and then submit an Official Medical Examination Report issued in a hospital to NIIED after passing the NIIED Selection Committee (the 2nd Selection). A serious illness reflected in the examination results will be the main cause of disqualification from the scholarship.
As to what illnesses might be considered serious, the 2012 the Korean Government Scholarship Program for Graduate Students Guideline (see page 21 here (link downloads a .doc file)) makes it much clearer. The Personal Medical Assessment asks the following questions:
② Have you ever had an infectious disease that posed a risk to public health (such as, but not limited to, tuberculosis, HIV and other STDs)?
⑤ Have you ever been addicted to alcohol?
⑥ Have you ever abused any narcotic, stimulant, hallucinogen or other substance (whether legal or prohibited)?
It also reveals a more specific medical test:
Applicants are not required to undergo an authorized medical exam before passing the 2nd Selection with NIIED; however, all successful candidates must take a comprehensive medical exam after the 2nd Selection (including an HIV and TBPE drug test**) in accordance with the requirements of the Korea Immigration Service and the KGSP. If the results show that the applicant is unfit to study and live overseas more than 3 years, he/she may be disqualified.
**The TBPE (tetrabromophenolphthalein ethyl ester) drug tests are for evaluating past usage of stimulant drugs.
The 2013 Guideline (click on '2013 KGSP Graduate Program Guideline.doc' here) and the 2014 Guideline (here, pdf) have the same wording.

The NIIED which oversees the program is the National Institute for International Education (site), which also oversees the EPIK program, so perhaps the inclusion of HIV and drug tests shouldn't be too surprising, considering that when the Korean government said it would remove restrictions for foreigners based on HIV status in early 2010 (ahead of the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific scheduled to be held in Busan in 2011, a move Benjamin Wagner described as "purely a symbolic gesture for the international community"), NIIED opposed the move in regard to the native speaking teachers working in public schools, as this Korea Herald article relates:
The MOJ’s move to ease restrictions on HIV testing is considered in-line with the government’s January pledge to remove restrictions for foreigners based on HIV status. Education officials, however, are urging the MOJ to reinstate deportation and to institute further restrictions in the form of annual re-tests for HIV.

In a reply to proposals from national, provincial and municipal Education Review Committees in February and March, the Ministry of Education agreed to petition the Ministry of Justice to revise regulations to give legally binding force to re-testing requirements already in place at some public schools.

An official with the KIS meanwhile said that as far as their regulations go, teachers on E-2 visas only need to get a HIV test upon the initial issuance of an E-2 visa, not for the renewal of a contract.

The National Institute for International Education Development, a division of the MOE, which oversees the government’s English Program in Korea, says that its rules are in accordance with the MOJ’s regulations, but not everyone at NIIED is in agreement with the new regulations.

“We actually disagree with the MOJ’s decision, because as an educational unit we listened to medical doctors and parents of students, and they obviously want re-testing legislation for HIV testing,” said an official only willing to be identified by the surname Jung.

“For the extension of visa or renewal, submitting an HIV test should be mandatory, but since we have to listen to what the MOJ is instructing, we changed our regulations.”

Jung added that negotiations with the MOJ on the matter were continuing and that as far as the NIIED was concerned, HIV test submissions, deportation, and re-testing should be enforced because of concerns expressed by parents and doctors.
At the same time, it's interesting that drug testing for Korean Government Scholarship Program applicants began in 2012, but not all that surprising; it was on August 1 of that year that the Ministry of Justice began imposing the kind of "health checks" that had previously been limited to foreign teachers on half a million foreign workers in Korea involving tests for "drug addiction, and cases of mental disorders, The process for Korean Government Scholarship Program applicants of filling out a 'self check' form and then, after entering the country, reporting to a MOJ-designated hospital for health, HIV and drug tests is similar to that for E-2 visa holders, as it is for non-professional Employment (E-9), ship crew employment (E-10), or Working Visit (H-2) visa-holders (minus the HIV test).

All of this does raise a question: are these HIV and drug tests limited to Korean Government Scholarship Program applicants or do other foreign students receive such tests?

(Hat tip to Benjamin Wagner.)

No comments: