Monday, July 10, 2017

Yonhap: Controversy over discrimination prompts Korea to stop E-2 HIV tests

[Update, July 12]

Here's an article about the end of HIV testing which borrows from the article Benjamin Wagner and I wrote, though it comes up with the opposite conclusion.

The Korea Times also published the English version of the Yonhap article below.

[Original post]

The Korean language press has also reported on the end of HIV/AIDS tests for E-2 visa holders (as can be seen here). Most articles are based on the following article Yonhap published on July 8:
'Discrimination Controversy' - Foreign instructor AIDS test abolished… UN recommendation accepted

Tests for drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana to remain the same as before

The mandatory AIDS testing system for foreign language conversation instructors working in Korea has been abolished.

Foreign conversation instructors urged the abolition of the mandatory AIDS test which they said was a discriminatory system that is not internationally recognized as universal and, after controversy, the government has accepted this demand.

The Ministry of Justice disclosed on July 8 that that from now on foreign instructors who have been issued a conversation instruction (E-2) visa can work without receiving an AIDS test.

Previously, in order to work in private institutes and elementary, middle and high schools, foreign conversation instructors were required to be issued an E-2 visa and to submit the results of AIDS and drug tests issued by a medical institution in Korea.

According to a new Ministry of Justice Notice which took effect on July 3, foreign instructors are now required to take a test for drugs including methamphetamine and cocaine and for the sexually transmitted disease syphilis, but not an AIDS test.

A New Zealander who had worked as an English instructor at a Korean elementary school in Korea petitioned the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [CERD] in 2012 and with that the mandatory AIDS test for foreign conversation instructors became a full-fledged controversy.

In May 2015 the CERD said that demanding an AIDS test as a condition of employment for English instructors violated human rights and urged the Korean government to compensate the woman for mental and material damages.

Last September the National Human Rights Commission also recommended to the government to stop the practice of carrying out mandatory AIDS testing for native speaking conversation instructors on E-2 visas.
Yonhap also published this video:

And no, the test for employment purposes was not a little pinprick on the finger.

It's nice that Yonhap was so quick to assure readers that the drug tests will remain so that they won't worry too much. As we can see, there was nothing wrong with the tests, it's just that foreign teachers made made it into a controversy at the UN and the government responded to their demands. One can't help but smile at the assertion that the "full-fledged controversy" over the tests started in 2012 considering the fact that no Korean media outlets reported on CERD accepting the case that year (despite the fact that a PR company issued a press release). And nothing was said of the Human Rights Commission rejected the first petition, or the Commercial Arbitration Board rejecting her petition, or the fact that the ROK took the better part of a year to respond to the petition (a bit over the 90 days required). Nor does it mention the teacher in question never received any compensation. None of this is surprising, of course.

Judging by his comment on the Yonhap article, it would seem Yonhap reader "패스터주pastor JosephJoo" was not very happy with the decision:
How much do they intend to try to spoil and corrupt this country?

Although the seat of the Minister of Justice is currently vacant, how can the Ministry of Justice officials have such little consideration for the protection of the nation’s life and health and exempt foreign instructors from AIDS tests?

Just what country’s officials are the Ministry of Justice’s employees, and was this something they decided on while in their right minds?
Considering the reputation of pastors when it comes to committing sex crimes in Korea, that comment is a bit rich. Other comments also call for fingerprinting foreigners and the necessity of the HIV tests. It would seem Anti English Spectrum were quite successful and pushing the "foreign English teacher as AIDS threat" narrative, but considering its association with US soldiers, and Americans in general dating back to the 1980s, they didn't have to try that hard.

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