The Rise and Fall of E-2-visa HIV testing in South Korea, 1988 - 2017
Part 1: The 1988 Olympics and Korean fears of AIDS
Part 2: HIV testing for foreigners in the aftermath of the 1988 Olympics (unfinished)
Part 3: Anti-English Spectrum begins to link foreign English teachers to AIDSUsing their own articles, Anti English Spectrum petitions for E-2 visa changes
Note: I've updated part 9 by adding in the text of Bill 7642, and repurposed a post from 2009 as part 11.
Anti-English Spectrum's response to the NHRCK petition
After Benjamin Wagner, then a law professor at Kyunghee University, submitted an official petition to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) regarding the drug and HIV testing of E-2 visa holders on February 4, 2009 (which was supported by ATEK's "Equal checks for all" campaign which encouraged E-2 visa holders to submit their own petitions to the NHRCK), Anti English Spectrum's leader Lee Eun-ung spoke out in the media defending the regulations and criticizing the NHRCK petition.
First, on February 10, 2009, the Seoul Sinmun published an article about HIV testing of foreign instructors which interviewed Lee. It should be noted that two months earlier, on November 14, 2008, the Seoul Sinmun had published a profile of Lee Eun-ung and Anti-English Spectrum and titled "Drug-taking foreign instructors caught after 150-day stakeout" (translated here).
Is HIV testing of foreign instructors discrimination?
When foreign instructors residing in Korea filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, saying that HIV tests were “discriminatory,” the “Citizens’ Association for Proper English Education,” which carries out a citizens’ movement to expel illegal foreign language instructors, protested.
Kyunghee University law professor Benjamin Wagner filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on the 4th, saying, "To obtain an E-2 visa to work as an English instructor in Korea, drug and AIDS tests are required, and this discriminates against nationality."
The ‘Citizens’ Association for Proper English Education’ refuted this, saying, “In more than 60 countries, AIDS tests are being conducted for foreigners when they enter employment, study, or immigration, so the claim of discrimination is a fabrication.”
Lee Eun-woong (39), who leads the citizen group, said, “There are not many cases where Korean (Gyopo) English instructors have caused drug or AIDS problems like foreign instructors, and it is unreasonable to approach our Korean compatriots in the same way as foreigners. The immigration policy of every country puts its own citizens first, and this is the same overseas as well,” he pointed out.
Mr. Lee added, “More than 80% of those seeking counseling at the Itaewon AIDS Counseling Center in Seoul are foreign English instructors.” The ‘Citizens’ Group for Proper English Education’ is engaged in activities such as reporting English instructors who commit illegal acts such as drug use and sexual harassment to law enforcement agencies.
Since the end of 2007, the Ministry of Justice has made it mandatory for foreign instructors to submit criminal record and health check certificates when applying for an E-2 visa. The Citizens’ Group emphasized during a visit to the Ministry of Justice that “The health certificate is the only legal safeguard that can block in advance drug use by foreign English instructors in Korea.”
“The Ministry of Justice is moving to strengthen foreign instructors’ submission of health checks from an enforcement ordinance to a legal ordinance, but the submission of the complaint to the Human Rights Commission could delay the policy.,” worried Mr. Lee.
The Human Rights Commission said, “All complaints go through an investigation process of about three months before a decision is made whether to dismiss them or to recommend amendments to relevant institutions because there are concerns about human rights violations.” “Professor Wagner’s complaint is still under investigation,” it explained. In addition to this HIV test, foreign instructors have mainly filed complaints for things such as being discriminated against for not being white when they were hired, the Human Rights Commission added.
‘Are Drug Tests for Foreign Teachers Discrimination?’Last March, 2am. An officetel in Ilsan, Gyeonggi-do. The foreign teachers began to gather. This was to smoke pot they’d bought through a broker they met at a bar in Ilsan. This writer and others, having gotten intel that foreign teachers in the area were planning to restart smoking pot as soon as cannabis was excluded from the medical exam they needed to submit to get E-2 visas, followed them for about 150 days in order to secure concrete evidence. Ultimately, the foreigners we caught this day faced the judgment of the law and were deported.Foreign Teacher Group’s ‘Equal Checks for All’ CampaignThe opportunity to create the “Citizens Movement to Expel Illegal English Teachers” was a January 2005 post at an online foreign teacher community. Many people were outraged not only at the lewd clubs in front of Hongik University that degraded Korean women, but also sexual assaults by foreign teachers on middle school girls. We voluntarily formed our group so that at least our children would not be exposed to such unqualified teachers. Afterwards, we carried out activities to deport these unqualified teachers, such as seeking legislations and providing tip to relevant institutions. As a result of these efforts, more than 90 unqualified teachers have faced justice.Another fruit is that in 2007, health checks (venereal diseases, drugs) and criminal checks were included in the immigration enforcement ordinance to get E-2 visas.Recently, foreign English teachers have petitioned the National Human Rights Commission, claiming the drug and AIDS tests are discrimination based on nationality. The petitioning body is the Association for Teachers for English in Korea (ATEK). On their homepage, they are conducting a campaign themed, “Equal Checks for All!” According to media reports, the association’s goal is to improve the quality of all English teachers and to better protect all Korean students, and the best method to accomplish this goal was for equal checks to be carried out. While petitioning the Korean Human Rights Commission, they are also petitioning the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and encouraging their members to post protests against discrimination to the National Human Rights Commission through the ATEK homepage.Their claim of discrimination based on nationality appears reasonable at first glance. According to Paragraph 4 of Article 4 of the current National Human Rights Commission Law, section on “discrimination” is stipulated as the following 14: “sex, religion, handicap, age, social status, place of birth (refers to place of birth, place of registration or primary place where one lived prior to reaching the age of majority), nation of birth, ethnicity, psychical conditions such as looks, marriage status (single, married, separated, divorced, widowed, remarried, common-law marriage), pregnancy or birth, family form or family situation, race, skin color, ideology or political opinions, criminal records in which the validity of the sentence has been voided, sexual orientation, education, and medical history.In particular, concerning employment, the National Human Rights Commission Law defined the act of favoring, excluding, classifying or disadvantaging particular people in employment (including recruiting, hiring, training, deploying, promoting, wages and other articles, wage advances and retirement) as discrimination.Are AIDS and drug tests for foreign teachers discrimination that run counter to human right? As we’ve conducted activities to expel illegal English teachers, we’ve discovered that it isn’t. According to the Korean Alliance to Defeat AIDS, about 60 nations worldwide conduct AIDS tests on foreigners, depending on the visa. Foreign teachers with AIDS have actually been confirmed, too.In spring of 2007, our group received a tip from a woman who wanted help. A teacher from Australia threatened her, saying he’d had sex without a condom in southeast Asia and she should be careful of AIDS, too. The tip also said the teacher was loitering around her place, trying to terrify her. After this writer and others pursued him with the cooperation of relevant authorities, he was finally arrested by police in the capital region after living at a guest house in Seoul. It was learned that the teacher had before been fired for molesting a child and had been added to the Korea English Teacher Recruitment Association (KETRA) blacklist.In early 2007, we got a tip about an American teacher who, while hiding his status as a married man, had approached a woman and had sex with her. This American teacher was teaching children at an educational facility in Gyeongsangnam-do. When we began to pursue him, he fled to the United States; it was later revealed that the female victim had contracted a venereal disease. It was also later revealed that 80% of the counseled at an AIDS counseling center in Itaewon were foreign white collar workers and English teachers. Scandals related to corrupt sexual relations with some unqualified foreign teachers are already widely known.The same goes for the drug tests. According to the job classification of total drug offenses reported by the Korea Customs Service, 22 of 225 — that is, one in 10 — were foreign teachers. The Supreme Prosecutor’s Office, too, in its white paper on drugs, pointed out that foreign teachers were smuggling in new kinds of drugs. In its white paper, the SPO said the reason for the increase in drug crimes by foreigners from the United States and Canada was the inflow of English teachers. In the case of the foreign teachers caught in southern Gyeonggi-do, they were caught growing and sharing pot in their home, which was equipped with a heater and other equipment. In August 2008, this writer personally witnessed in Itaewon foreign teachers trading cannabis resin for cash, too.You Must First Take Own Actions Against Unqualified TeachersIn some quarters, they claim that only some teachers are drug offenders or criminals, but making tests of these kinds mandatory could plant stereotypes by making it the problem of all teachers. But when we look at the examples uncovered, statistics, and drug crimes committed by foreign teachers, the National Human Rights Commission petition protesting drug testing will have a tough time earning the agreement of the bulk of Korean citizens.We are not taking issue with the English teachers’ petition itself. This is because unqualified foreign teachers provided the reason for the execution of AIDS tests and drug tests. More than anything, we have a duty to lessen the insecurity of school parents who entrust their children to foreign teachers. Only if foreign teachers, sensing the stinging glances of Korean citizens, formulate their own measures to eradicate illegal teachers will their petition earn the agreement of many Koreans.The claim of discrimination also runs counter to the recent domestic opinion calling for foreign teacher credentials to be strictly qualified. Choe Yeong-hui, a Democratic Party lawmaker, said a bill is being prepared to include crimes committed by foreign teachers while in Korea when they seek employment. The petition submitted by ATEK is reportedly being handled by the National Human Rights Commission’s migrant rights team. According to the Commission’s internal regulations, when a petition is raised, an investigation must me competed within three months, and responsible institutions are advised in accordance with decisions by the pertinent committee, such as the Subcommittee on Discrimination. We hope for a prudent decision by the Human Rights Committee.Lee Eun-ung (Administrator of ‘Citizens Movement to Expel Illegal English Teachers’)