Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Anti English Spectrum distributes pamphlets in Seoul part 2 [AKA the final post of the English Spectrum Incident series]

The 2005 English Spectrum Incident

Part 1: English Spectrum and 'Ask The Playboy'
Part 2: The Kimchiland where it’s easy to sleep with women and make money
Part 3: English Spectrum shuts down as Anti-English Spectrum is created
Part 4: How to hunt foreign women
Part 5: Did the foreigners who denigrated Korean women throw a secret party?
Part 6: The 'Ask The Playboy' sexy costume party
Part 7: Stir over ‘lewd party’ involving foreigners and Korean women
Part 8: The 2003 post that tarred foreign English teachers as child molesters
Part 9: Netizens shocked by foreign instructor site introducing how to harass Korean children
Part 10: 'Recruit a Yankee strike force!'
Part 11: The Daum signature campaign: 'Let's kick out low quality foreign instructors!' 
Part 12: Movement to expel foreign teachers who denigrated Korean women
Part 13: "Middle school girls will do anything"
Part 14: Netizens propose 'Yankee counter strike force'
Part 15: Segye Ilbo interview with the women from the party, part 1
Part 16: Segye Ilbo interview with the women from the party, part 2
Part 17: Web messages draw Koreans’ wrath
Part 18: Thai female laborers and white English instructors
Part 19: KBS Morning Newstime: 'I can also suffer from the two faces of the internet'
Part 20: AES: Grandfather Dangun is wailing in his grave!
Part 21: 'Regret' over the scandal caused by confessions of foreign instructors
Part 22: "Korean men have no excuse"
Part 23: "Unfit foreign instructors should be a 'social issue'"
Part 24: Growing dispute over foreign English instructor qualifications
Part 25: 'Clamor' at foreigner English education site
Part 26: Foreign instructor: "I want to apologize"
Part 27: No putting brakes on 'Internet human rights violations'
Part 28: "They branded us as whores, yanggongju and pimps," part 1
Part 29: "They branded us as whores, yanggongju and pimps," part 2
Part 30: Don't Imagine
Part 31: Anti-English Spectrum founder's statement
Part 32: 'Foreign instructor' takes third place
Part 33: Art From Outsider's Point of View
Part 34: U.S. Embassy warns Americans of threats near colleges
Part 35: Internet real name system debated
Part 36: Dirty Korean women who have brought shame to the country?
Part 37: Invasion of Privacy Degrades Korean Women Twice Over
Part 38: 60 unqualified native speaking instructors hired for English instruction
Part 39: The rising tide of unqualified foreign instructors
Part 40: Warrant for Canadian English instructor who molested hagwon owner
Part 41: MBC Sisa Magazine 2580: "Korea is a paradise"
Part 42: Foreign instructor: "In two years I slept with 20 Korean women."
Part 43: Viewers shocked by shameless acts of unqualified foreign instructors.
Part 44: Warrant for the arrest of a man in his 30s for breaking into home of foreign instructors
Part 45: [Cultural criticism] Hongdae club day lewd party incident 
Part 46: Unqualified English instructors seen as major problem here
Part 47: Investigation of the realities of 'foreign instructors' methods for luring Korean women'
Part 48: Broadcast announcement: 'For foreign instructors, is Korea a paradise for women?'
Part 49: To white English instructors, the Republic of Korea is a paradise
Part 50: "If they're white, it's okay?" Lots of English instructor frauds... 
 
Part 51: A new message from Anti English Spectrum
Part 52: 
SBS, 'Is Korea their paradise? Blond hair blue eyes' part 1
Part 53: SBS, 'Is Korea their paradise? Blond hair blue eyes' part 2 
Part 54: SBS, 'Is Korea their paradise? Blond hair blue eyes' part 3
Part 55: Viewers of 'Realities of unfit foreign instructors' outraged
Part 56: Foreign instructor: "Korea is a cash and women dispenser."
Part 57: Frustration with low-standard foreign instructors: "Korea's pride damaged"
Part 55: Viewers of 'Realities of unfit foreign instructors' outraged
Part 56: Foreign instructor: "Korea is a cash and women dispenser."
Part 57: Frustration with low-standard foreign instructors: "Korea's pride damaged"
Part 58: Netizen anger over 'foreign instructor' broadcast
Part 64: Anti English Spectrum distributes pamphlets in Seoul taking advantage of the SBS broadcast, part 2

More Anti English Spectrum members handed out leaflets again the weekend after the SBS report came out, on February 27, the same day member Gamjameori (dgy1204) posted these photos of the outing:

Making concrete plans.



Dividing up the leaflets before our earnest work.





Smoking a cigarette after hard work....


A description of their "campaigns to oust illegal native English teachers" in their list of achievements states that they "Conducted three separate campaigns in front of Hongdae, Myongdong, Shinchon and Seoul Girls Highschool). One wonders what effect these campaigns might have had. To put it another way, one wonders how many passersby even bothered to read the leaflets.

Regarding the leaflet, continuing from the previous post, it also highlights the argument made on "I Want To Know That" about the how Koreans view foreigners differently depending on their appearance and country of origin: "Think about the racial discrimination within ourselves. We look coldly upon migrant workers from Southeast Asia but are excessively lenient towards blue-eyed foreigners..." The solution, for them, is to not only encourage Koreans to look coldly upon "blue-eyed foreigners" as well, but to take matters into their own hands:
Right now our society has no system properly put in place to filter out low-quality native-speaking instructors! Ladies and gentlemen, you yourselves must be vigilant and expel them!!! If you see these people please report them to the immigration office or the nearest police station.
What's also interesting is how Anti English Spectrum's target changed. The leaflet defines low-quality native-speaking instructors as "Those coming to Korea without E-2 visas for the purpose of engaging in sexual pleasures and to create trouble [emphasis added]." It further defines E-2 visas as "A visa issued by the immigration office to those who have a four-year university degree or teaching credentials." Of course, by the time they had BreakNews publish what amounted to their manifesto on the need for HIV tests for foreign teachers in September 2006, their target for these tests became foreign teachers on E-2 visas, presumably because they realized the difficulty of testing those teaching illegally (such as on tourist visas), which makes clear that their concern was never with 'illegal' or 'low-quality native-speaking instructors' per se, but with the imposition of Korean sovereignty over, and stigmatization as AIDS threats of white, male foreign teachers in general.

The leaflet they distributed is also an early example of Anti English Spectrum rewriting its history. Though its initial members (thousands joined in the first few weeks of its existence) were netizens keen to vent their anger at both the foreign teachers and the women who dared to be seen frolicking with them in photos of the Hongdae English Spectrum parties, many of the early posts at the site (featuring titles like "Now's the chance to humiliate those crazy bitches") were later deleted. The reasons for netizen anger toward the teachers were changed into something rather different from their initial anger at (and feelings of humiliation due to) foreign teacher attitudes towards Korean women at English Spectrum's "Ask The Playboy" forum and anger at the betrayal of Korean women who would sleep with them:
At the end of last year photos of white people frolicking with Korean women at a bar in Itaewon were uploaded at an employment site for foreign language English instructors, causing controversy when netizens criticized this and put forward the view that [the photos] invaded privacy.
First of all, every member of the group very knew well the photos were not taken in Itaewon; I imagine Itaewon conformed better to what they imagined were the prejudices of the leaflets' potential readers and more heavily implied, without outright stating it, that there was sex involved. More importantly, the assertion that "netizens... put forward the view that [the photos] invaded privacy" makes them seem like concerned citizens - concerned about the women's privacy - rather than angry, offended netizens who themselves used the photos as both a means - and yet another excuse - to lash out at young women who increasingly seemed to be forgetting their place (something that would come to a head months later during the 'dog poop girl incident'). Over time Anti English Spectrum would change their image from netizens angry about a sexy costume party, to nationalists trying to expel dangerous outsiders, to citizens concerned about the safety of children, as the changes in the header on their site reveal:

February 7, 2005 
"Anti English Spectrum"

 July 24, 2006
"The citizens movement to expel illegal foreign language instructors." ("Our fatherland, protected by the blood of our ancestors. What we must protect now is [our] descendants' education." Note Yi Sun-shin, Kim Jwa-jin, Dangun, and other nationalist heroes.)

October 16, 2008
The final website banner of "Citizens' group for upright English education (The citizens movement to expel illegal foreign language instructors)."

Over the next year and a half the group would be busy, according to their list of achievements:
2005.01 to present
Submitted countless [hundreds of] petitions to the MOJ, Immigration, Supreme Prosecutor’s Office and Education Ministry [resulting in]:
- strengthened E-2 visa related documents at Immigration
- active and full-blown crackdown operations on illegal English teachers by related organizations
- southern district prosecutor’s office deported 69 fake academic credential teachers in Oct. 2005

2005.01 to present
Extensive efforts in trying to get press on the problems and disorder regarding native English teachers. Scores of articles were published/broadcast! (MBC, SBS, Kookmin Ilbo, Dailian, Hankook Ilbo, Breaknews, The Korea Economic Daily, The Women’s News, etc…)

2005 - 2005.12
Conducted campaigns to prohibit illegal native speakers to teach and appear on TV.

2005.11
Visited Information and Communications Ministry, Ethics Committee to request that the native English teacher job search site English xxxx be punished for posting obscenities.

2005.01 to present
Successfully reported and closed down native English teacher sites and sites with posts that degrade women in Korean society.

2005.01 to present
Collected information and exposed illegal native English teachers and reported them to related institutes (cannot disclose).

2006.07
Visited the National Assembly (assemblyman Lee Joo-ho, etc) to request a bill to strengthen checks on native English teacher management policies / plans.

2006 to present
Efforts made to build opposing public opinion against the lowering of standards regarding qualifications for native English speakers by certain people involved in the English education market. Received confirmation from Education Ministry and Offices of Education that qualification standards will be strengthened.

2006.08
Participated in National Assembly public hearing (held by assemblyman Lee Joo-ho) regarding English education and delivered our Internet cafe’s position on the matter - emphasized that budgets concentrated on foreign assistant teachers should be used to support Korean English teachers and English students.

2006.08
Cooperated and participated in TV broadcast programs regarding problems with low quality, unqualified native English teachers.[On August 25 and September 1, in the wake of the arrest of John Mark Karr and the realization he had taught in Korea.]
SBS 'Seven Days': "Unverified foreign English teachers, a danger to children" [Link]
KBS 'Center of the World': "Are native speaking English teachers really trustworthy?" [Link]
KBS2 'VJ Special Forces': "The war against foreign crime" [Link]
If it is true they contributed to those broadcasts, then it would seem they had, by this point, become the go-to 'experts' on foreign teacher misbehavior for two of the main Korean television networks. Still, they weren't getting the publicity for their activities and goals they desired; this would change in July 2006, when 'Inside Story' (in its tabloid newspaper edition) or BreakNews (in its online incarnation) began to publish a series of articles from Anti English Spectrum's point of view about the debased nature of low quality foreign teachers and the threat they posed to upright Korean society:

07.24 “Low-quality foreign teachers absorbed in money, women, drugs.” [Link]
08.07 "Low quality English teachers: 'Korean women are a source of money and sex partners'" [Link]
08.16 "Women give English teachers 'full service like a king'"[Link]
08.21 "Affairs with High School Students, Spreading Nude Photos on the Internet" [Link]
09.12 "Foreign teachers demand mothers in substitution for tutoring fees." [Link]
09.18 "Tracking [down] blacklisted foreign teachers suspected of having AIDS" [Links: English Korean]

In the pamphlet that Anti English Spectrum members distributed in February 2005, they mentioned scandalous actions by foreign teachers that had not been reported in the media but were available at their site, such as a foreign teacher who got a student pregnant and threatened legal action against someone who wanted to report him, and teachers who "seduced students' mothers." As can be seen in the second-last article above, BreakNews was not at all above reporting these stories. I'd love to do a short series translating these but they're rather long so that might take some time (though perhaps not as long as this series!). I have, however, translated a number of news reports linked to Anti English Spectrum's campaign to connect foreign teachers with AIDS between the summer of 2006 and the imposition of HIV testing for E-2 visa holders in late 2007, and will try to get those posted in the near(ish) future.

With the media furor over the SBS broadcast of 'I Want To Know That' dying out by the end of February 2005, the media stopped, for the moment, reporting on the English Spectrum incident (though references to it (or to foreign teachers "secret parties") would appear even seven years later as if it had happened yesterday (see here and here)). As seen above, however, Anti English Spectrum, which formed due to the incident, kept fighting its fight to keep Western men from having sex with Korean women protect Korean children from unqualified foreign teachers, eventually gaining a major success in 2007 when they were invited to an immigration policy meeting which decided on the HIV and drug tests for E-2 visa holders for which they had been lobbying during the past year or more.

When I started this series over five years ago, I wouldn't have imagined it would take this long to finish, but I also didn't realize how varied the the news articles surrounding the English Spectrum Incident were, or how interesting the conversation regarding the incident was compared to my expectations. Hopefully my readers have found it interesting as well. Several people helped me along the way: Young Mi Park helped with translation in many of the 2012 posts, while the translations of the 'I Want To Know That' episode couldn't have been done without Ami Shin. Thanks as well to Matthew Smith for reminding me to continue the series in 2013. And thanks to readers who have stuck with me despite the intermittent posting.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fringe Christian anti-gay group opposes ending HIV tests for E-2s

In the wake of the Ministry of Justice announcing that it would no longer require HIV tests for foreign instructors, (reported in the Korean language media as being due to "controversy over discrimination"), a Christian group known as Anti-Homosexuality Christian Citizens' Solidarity has released a statement condemning the Ministry for endangering the nation and reverse discrimination. As the Korea Times put it
The Christian group condemns homosexuality and believes that Christians must unite against homosexuality. It supports Christian anti-homosexual movement organizations, recruits and trains "young patriotic" vanguard troops and seeks strategic countermeasures to stop homosexuality, according to its website.
That website is http://www.antihomo.net, in case you were wondering. That such an anti-gay group would be concerned with AIDS is not surprising considering the link made between homosexuality and AIDS in the literature of the Christian groups who have picketed Pride celebrations for the past few years. One might get the idea from the Times coverage that this group speaks for a large group of people, but that would be mistaken. The message from its representative Pastor Ju Yo-sep - the same Pastor Ju Yo-sep who left a ranting comment on the Yonhap piece - appears only in the Gidok Ilbo [Christian Daily], and has not been referred to in any other articles (other than the Korea Times), as far as I can tell. Here is the article he wrote for the Gidok Ilbo on July 10:
[AHCCS Statement] The Ministry of Justice must immediately retract its halting of mandatory AIDS tests for foreign conversation instructors.

Pastor Ju Yo-sep of Anti-Homosexuality Christian Citizens' Solidarity.

At present, the Justice Department has a disordered atmosphere with the appointed minister candidate having voluntarily resigned and the confirmation hearing for the new minister candidate yet to take place. In such a [state], the Ministry of Justice announced on July 8 a dangerous policy that runs counter to the protection of citizens’ health and the national interests of the Republic of Korea, that it had abolished the AIDS tests which had been mandatory up until now for native-speaking conversation instructors, in accordance with the demands of the UN Committee on the Eradication of Racial Discrimination and the recommendation of the National Human Rights Commission. The majority of citizens who hear this news are astonished. How can this crucial issue be decided by some public officials without public consent?

This is clearly a socialist idea, a serious issue that infringes upon people's right to health and right to know, and should be withdrawn and [the AIDS test should be] reverted back to because it is an erroneous decision arising from a distorted sense of discrimination that causes reverse discrimination. It is shocking and unbelievable that the Ministry of Justice, a central administrative agency that oversees prosecutors, the penal [system], human rights protection, immigration control, and other judicial affairs, has made such an anti-human rights and anti-citizen decision that infringes on the human rights of the majority in order to protect the human rights of a small minority. Why should the majority of citizens suffer from reverse discrimination at the hands of the state?

AIDS is a legally[defined] infectious disease caused by infection with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), and is classified with the third group of infectious diseases in article 2 (1) of the “Prevention and Management of Infectious Diseases Act” which includes malaria, tuberculosis, Vibrio Vulnificus Septicemia, influenza, and syphilis. However, it is doubtful whether a dangerous infected person with something like AIDS can be kept secret on that basis. This cannot but be questioned as a decision made through an obviously wrong political judgment.

As well, the anxiety and suspicion of many parents and students regarding foreign conversation teachers can be amplified. This will not only affect parents and students, but will even have an adverse effect on the majority of foreign conversation instructors who have nothing to do with AIDS. Up until now, parents and students believed the government, and when it said foreign conversation instructors had passed the AIDS test, they trusted this, but from now on, because [this] method of verifying foreign instructors is gone, it can lead to group distrust and disadvantage [among] parents and students. A democratic government should not give up the obligation it ought to fulfill, causing the distrust of the majority of the people and strained relations with foreign conversation instructors, as well as wasting energy on unnecessary suspicion.

As a result of problems with foreign conversation instructors such as drugs appearing many times in the media, public opinion worsened and so immigration enforcement measures made it so medical certificates (for syphilis*, drugs, AIDS) were to be included for the E-2 visa, but I cannot understand why the AIDS provision alone was excluded. On the same basis, if a syphilis carrier or drug addict raises an objection that they are discriminated against and request that [the test] be removed, how should that be dealt with? AIDS, like syphilis and drugs, spreads in secret easily, and is a dangerous disease that can directly affect the people, so it is necessary to explain in detail why AIDS alone is treated as a special case, and if it is unreasonable, it should naturally be withdrawn.

In some media [reports], the health rights of the Korean people were threatened, and even though there was great concern about the spread of AIDS, embarrassment was felt about the mandatory AIDS test for foreign conversation instructors, and they forecast problems with labor survival and from the purebloodism and violation of reciprocity which go against globalization, and articles agreeing with this were published, but what nation’s media is so deplorable and shocking? I would like to ask again what kind of benefits would come to the Republic of Korea if we really abolish the mandatory AIDS test for foreign instructors. It is just dumbfounding how much it was decided to ruin and corrupt Korea. At present, I don’t know if a lot of the national budget is paid to cover the cost of treatment for AIDS patients, or if it cannot be interpreted as a complaint of an idealist who deliberately looks away.

Which country officials are the officials of the Justice Department? Now, with the position of the Minister of Justice vacant and a candidate yet to go through a confirmation hearing, we should ask why the Ministry of Justice decided on such an important policy in a hurry and sternly find out who is responsible. At this time the nation’s citizens have realized just how indifferent the Ministry of Justice, along with the National Human Rights Commission, is to the protection of the health of its own citizens and how it has neglected and encouraged AIDS infection. The Ministry of Justice should see this as an opportunity to become aware of this and make the utmost effort [to rectify it].

As the treatment costs for AIDS patients are covered in full by the government, it is paid out from the astronomical national budget, but who will be responsible for the cost of medical care and nursing care if a Korean is infected through sexual contact with a foreign AIDS conversation instructor?** Why is the Ministry of Justice abandoning its duty and irresponsibly making an exemption of the mandatory test? In this way, how can the Ministry of Justice fortify and protect the citizens’ human rights, protect citizens’ right to health, and protect the safety of many students and hagwon attendees?

We hope the Ministry of Justice will come to its senses and immediately retract its abandoning of the mandatory AIDS test for foreign conversation instructors and bear in mind that this path is the only way to recover damaged public trust.
There's so much wrong here it's hard to know where to start. Suffice it to say that the idea that HIV spreads easily is wrong, and the idea that parents should be suspicious of foreign teachers because their children might catch it from the teachers helps to contribute to fear and ignorance surrounding HIV/AIDS in Korea (not to mention contributing to suspicion of foreigners; as always such articles have a prescriptive quality to them). What confuses me is that Christians who seem to take offense at North Koreans being abused by their government (ie human rights abuses) also take offense at the concept of rights being applied to their own country (rights, I should add, that Christians, among others, fought for during the democracy movement). This obviously reeks of "rights for me (or my pet causes) but not for thee," and probably has more to do with the feeling of it being imposed from without (again, see some of their writing here). Of course, such ideas have not been imposed from outside - they need only read something like "When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt." (Leviticus 19:33-34)***

In the end, I'm less concerned about this odd postscript to the doing away of the E-2 HIV testing regime in the form of the rantings of homophobic Christians as it applies to foreign teachers than I am about how such intolerance contributes to the hardship faced by Koreans living with HIV/AIDS and the Korean LGBT community.

* It's odd how syphilis got included in all of this. It was not included in the original health checks that began in 2007, but was mandated in the 2011 MoJ notice on E-2 health checks and appeared on future checks (at least the ones I took). Reading Yonhap's article or the ranting above makes it sound like it was part of the original testing regime, but it wasn't, and was added with little fanfare in 2011.

** I decided to render "foreign AIDS conversation instructor" as it was written: 외국인 에이즈회화강사. He's either not the best of writers or is deliberately writing in a smear-y way that makes the Anti-English Spectrum folks look measured in comparison (and the fact that nothing about the doing away with of the HIV tests has appeared on AES's site shows just how dead that site is).

***The Biblical quote is from Gil-Soo Han's Nouveau-riche Nationalism and Multiculturalism in Korea (New York: Routledge, 2016).

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.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Justice Ministry announces it has ended HIV tests for English teachers

The Korea Herald reported yesterday that South Korea has done away with mandatory HIV tests for English teachers:
A controversial requirement for HIV testing of foreign language teachers has been scrapped, government officials confirmed to The Korea Herald on Thursday, almost 10 years after it was introduced.

Testing for HIV and drugs began in 2007 in response to pressure from citizens groups angered partly by a website on which teachers bragged about debauchery and the news that pedophile Christopher Paul Neil had taught in Korea.
For more (much more!) on the website and the netizen and media response it engendered, see here; for more on how the "citizens' group" Anti English Spectrum pushed to get the HIV tests in particular made into policy, see here. [I have a more thorough update to that post that I'll start posting soon.]
The Justice Ministry confirmed that a revision to visa regulations on July 3 removes the requirement for HIV testing when renewing or issuing E-2 visas. [...]

Choi Won-seok, director of human rights affairs at the Foreign Ministry, said that the change involved a number of related government bodies, including the Education Ministry, so that HIV testing would also not be required as a part of contracts with state education authorities.

He said the change was made in response to concerns raised from various sectors, including the UN and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea.
He is referring to how in May of 2015 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ruled that Korea should drop its HIV testing requirements for foreign English teachers, and in September 2016 the National Human Rights Commission of Korea "recommended the government stop its mandatory HIV testing of foreign English teachers." It took some time for the government to respond to either of these, but it appears it finally has.

If we remember, in December 2010 the Korean government officially did away with all HIV testing restrictions on foreigners - except for E-2 visa holders. About a month later the Ministry of Justice posted an Immigration Control Law enforcement regulation titled "Notice of the Requirements of Medical Institutions Administering Drug Tests and Other Tests to be Submitted for Alien Registration," which can be found here. The Ministry of Justice released an amended version of this notice on July 3 which was exactly the same as the old one but which removed "HIV" from things to be tested for (the same drug testing system remains in place). It also announced that the old notice has been abolished as of July 3. (The new notice can be found by going here and searching for "법무부고시제2017-116호"; then go to page 69 of the resulting pdf.)

Perhaps one reason for finally abolishing the HIV restrictions is that the new Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-hwa, was formerly UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights. As noted in this article, she once said, "While travel restrictions are a question of State sovereignty, it must be pointed out that States also have obligations under international law within which sovereign rights may be exercised[. ...] In particular, under basic norms of non-discrimination, States must provide compelling reasons for any differentiation in treatment, including in restricting travel for people living with HIV. We know that there are no such compelling reasons."

Another reason might be that a South Korean representative, Professor Chung Chin-sung, has just been elected to serve as the Korean expert on the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD); having to admit your own country was ignoring a CERD decision could make for awkward moments at the water cooler.

Of course, when it comes to the 2015 CERD decision, the ROK is still ignoring at least one of the Committee's recommendations:
The Committee recommends that the State party grant the petitioner adequate compensation for the moral and material damages caused by the above-mentioned violations of the Convention, including compensation for the lost wages during the one year she was prevented from working.
This certainly has not happened.

It should also be kept in mind that though the ROK had promised to remove HIV testing regulations in 2010, it kept the E-2 tests in place and lied to UNAIDS, which resulted in Korea being portrayed as an HIV-test-free nation in UNAIDS literature. And there have been hints that though HIV testing for migrant workers (E-9 visa-holders) had been officially lifted in 2010, these tests were still continuing. The 2017 EPIK contract for public school English teachers states that HIV tests are necessary. Granted, it has only been a few days, and the Korea Herald article stated that "the change involved a number of related government bodies, including the Education Ministry," but it would be worth keeping an eye out to make sure the contracts change. The contracts can be found here (where you can enjoy the "cleavagey white female stock model" who was photoshopped into the banner image).

Needless to say, as someone who made some contributions to the effort to get the HIV tests repealed, I'm pleased to see this finally, after almost a decade, come to pass. But it might be a good idea to make sure that they have actually been repealed in practice, and not just in a pro forma manner, before celebrating too much.

[Thanks to Ben Wagner for many of the above links - and, obviously, for putting in the effort to get us to this point.]

Thursday, April 06, 2017

American Public Health Association urges UNAIDS to revoke ROK’s status as a country with no HIV-related travel restrictions

In May of 2015 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ruled that Korea should drop its HIV testing requirements for foreign English teachers, and in September 2016 the National Human Rights Commission of Korea "recommended the government stop its mandatory HIV testing of foreign English teachers." The government was to decide whether to accept this recommendation within 90 days, or by December 7, but there are no news reports stating whether this occurred or not. (Though, considering the political turmoil, perhaps that is not so surprising.)

Throughout this time, the ROK has been portrayed in UNAIDS literature as a country with no HIV restrictions. For example, this pamphlet shows "How travel restrictions have changed since 2008," revealing that the number of countries with HIV restrictions dropped from 59 in 2008 to 35 in 2015. While, as even UN's CERD has noted, South Korea should be included on the list of "countries, territories and areas [which] impose some form of restriction on the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV based on their HIV status," it instead includes South Korea among the "countries, territories and areas that have no HIV-specific restriction on entry, stay or residence."

For whatever reason UNAIDS has not corrected this. In response, the American Public Health Association drafted a policy statement titled "Opposition to Immigration Policies Requiring HIV Tests as a Condition of Employment for Foreign Nationals" and "sent a letter to UNAIDS urging it to revoke its recognition of South Korea’s status as a country without any HIV restrictions – until it actually produces and enforces policies that actually reflect that status." As well, the World Federation of Public Health Associations is to adopt a corresponding policy at their assembly which is currently in progress. Here is an excerpt of the American Public Health Association's letter:
One such example of misrepresentation of HIV-related immigration policy can be found with the Republic of Korea (ROK), which subjects foreign nationals applying for visas to work or study under several visa categories to mandatory HIV testing. Recent decisions by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea both confirm the ongoing existence and enforcement of mandatory testing for E-2 visa applicants and recommend that they be struck down. Unfortunately, despite this discriminatory requirement, ROK representatives declared at the 2012 International AIDS Conference that their government had removed all HIV-related travel restrictions and, as a result, the country was granted “green” (restriction-free) status by UNAIDS, while other states with HIV-related restrictions similar to those enforced by ROK are still classified as “yellow” on this map. This inconsistency in the application of UNAIDS’ assessment criteria could threaten the progress made on reducing HIV-related travel restrictions. We strongly urge UNAIDS to revoke ROK’s status as a country with no HIV-related travel restrictions until it eliminates all mandatory HIV testing policies.
It's nice to see such a stand being taken, and hopefully such pressure will move the ROK government to finally respond to the CERD and NHRCK decisions. The full letter can be read here.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Strange bedfellows

[Update, March 30: Gord Sellar has written about this article as well.]

[Update, March 21: I added a link to the Rape Crisis Center (hat tip to John Power), which is in Daehangno, (not Itaewon). I also added explanations to two photos and added two more photos to illustrate attitudes toward white women.]

Original post:

The other day Robert Neff discovered an article titled "Who Gets Sick From Yellow Fever? What Carceral Feminism Does Not See." To answer the obvious question, carceral feminism "is used to define any feminist who believes the criminal justice system should protect and serve women who are victims of rape and other forms of male violence". The term is used by those who criticize such an approach, as the author of this article does. To understand why, we start in... Itaewon.
When the dark glides over, it masks the emptied beer cans and vomit stains, and brightens up with neon lights to welcome couples and tourists to trans bars, massage parlors, 'Homo Hill,' and hip-hop clubs. 
Thus Itaewon is seething with sex of all sorts. Though she does end the paragraph by saying that "Itaewon has rebranded itself as a hotspot for foodies, tourism, and nightlife," tales of streets full of Koreans dining at upscale eateries and drinking in craft beer bars is not the first impression she wants to create. [For more on the gentrification of US military camp towns, see this interview with Geoffrey Cain.]
One of its staple landmarks 'Hooker Hill' echoes its legacy of sex workers, criminals, and foreigners. It is in Itaewon that I first overheard young white men talk about their sexual conquests of 'tight Asian pussies.' 
Sadly, she seems unaware that its been 12 years now since the wretched hive of white scum and villainy expanded to Hongdae. Or as the Herald Gyeongje put it in 2005, Hongdae was "an area hot with youthful passion that has degenerated from being mixed up with foreigners," which led to certain rumors that caused great bitterness.
Yellow fever, however, is not a simple matter of preferences. During my time working at the Seoul Rape Crisis Center, one of the more well-established response service in Korea, I saw how yellow bodies silently absorbed this cost: sexual assault of Korean women by white men, mostly American, constituted at least a third of the Center’s cases.
That's a rather shocking statistic. This is partly because this list (#21) of registered, non-gyopo foreigners in Korea (by city / district / province / county) as of the end of December last year (from the Korean Immigration Service's website; a list of registered gyopo is here (#41)) reveals that the population of registered foreigners from Western countries with the largest populations in Seoul consisted of 9738 men; for Gyeonggi-do, there were 5929 men. As those from other Western countries might add up to another 1000 or so, that would make for a total of 16,667. This would not include tourists, however. This chart (#3), showing the total number of foreigners in Korea in December 2016 by country and visa category, shows that there were 14,027 men from North America and 3163 men from Australia (the two largest Western countries represented in that category by far) who were in Korea on a B2 Tourist visa. We have no idea where they stayed or what percentage were white; among registered foreigners, gyopo make up about a third of Americans and half of Canadians. I would imagine an estimate of 15,000 white male tourists from these countries being in the capital area would be a very generous one indeed. Also not included among registered foreigners are US military. There were said to be 29,300 in Korea in 2014, With the closure of bases near the DMZ and expansion of Camp Humphries in Pyeongtaek, I'm not sure how many are in the capital area now. Let's be generous and say 20,000.

Thus, 16,600 registered male westerners + 15,000 male western tourists + 20,000 US military = 51,600 western males in the capital area, the population of which is 10,290,000 (for Seoul) and 12,342,448 (for Gyeonggi-do) for a grand total of 22,633,000, which should be divided in half for the male portion of the population (11,317,000). 51,600 thus makes up 0.46% of the male population of the capital area, and yet somehow they are responsible for a third of the Rape Crisis Center's annual cases, suggesting they rape at a rate 66 times more than their percentage of the population. This is, frankly, unbelievable. Perhaps this center is a branch in Itaewon; referring to it as "the Seoul Rape Crisis Center," however, gives the impression that it is not a branch. Needless to say, I'm rather skeptical. [Update: A link to the center's site is here; it's in Daehangno, so my skepticism just increased by a few orders of magnitude (hat tip to John Power).]

Just who are these dangerous, sex-crime-committing white men?
From what I could gather, they were recent college graduates from the US who had come to Korea to ‘make easy money’ (read: teach English in one of many hak-wons, or tutoring academies) and ‘experience the nightlife.’ [...] With the constant influx of young, college-educated white men in Korea, yellow fever flows back to the East.
Ah, so it's English teachers, then. Her problem with "carceral feminism" is that these men cannot be incarcerated due to the freedom their American passports and globalization gives them:
If the American state can prove its neoliberal conviction through deploying Korea as an example, so too can whiteness assert its masculinity by consuming ‘tight Asian pussies.’ Under white gaze, Korean girls, available and desperate, come with no strings attached; when there are strings, they can be severed easily by flying back to the US.[...] 
The normalization and prevalence of sexual violence against Korean women by white men demonstrate the material consequence of the unequal distribution of mobility.[...] The Rape Crisis Center’s record quantifies this kind of assault as a third of its annual cases[. ...] These assaults often take place in bars, clubs, and motels of areas like Itaewon. Survivors rarely know their assailants, and do not recall enough identifiable details to file a report. Those who are able to make a report find themselves in a dead end when they find out that their assailants have left the country. White men come and go–untraceable and unaccountable. [...]
He has been removed, but at his own will, and his ability to return cannot be removed from his whiteness and Korea’s neoliberal development. Without the assailant to prosecute, carceral approaches can neither support individual survivors, nor address the root cause. The cycle of white men leaving behind survivors continues.
There's nothing wrong with examining structural reasons for a phenomenon that most certainly does occur. And to be sure, "carceral approaches" face limitations when their targets can flee the country with relative ease. But there there is not enough of the concrete here (beyond the exaggerated statistic above), and readers are faced with this:
Interrogating the process through which yellow fever becomes embedded in Korea’s cultural economy presents a compelling case study of the intersections of neoliberal development and racialized colonial desire. [...]
[We must move] beyond yellow fever as fantasy. To resist the fantasy, we must begin by restoring its bodies–bodies that echo the history of American GIs and the women they used up and left–and reckon with the forces of globalization, borders, misogyny, and colonial desire that lie at its heart.
And so we deal with embeddedness, intersections, colonial desire and bodies. There may be another academic term missing from all of this, however. That these "assaults often take place in bars, clubs, and motels of areas like Itaewon" and that the women "do not recall enough" suggests perhaps that they were drinking with these men. The reason they might be drawn to them? The US is the land of milk and honey for these women:
For women, dating white men is a means through which they can access this fantasy. A friend of mine recounted her peers’ reaction when she revealed her partner to be a white American. “That’s the dream!” they exclaimed. In this dream, life is prosperous, exciting, and stable. The white man lives this dream and, thus, the proximity to him brings the dream closer. The white man becomes the dream. 
These women are portrayed as being deluded by the fantasy of America. Which might suggest why the author never uses the term "agency," since she basically robs these women of it by portraying them as nothing but victims, both of white men and of their own delusions which prompt them to approach these likely rapists in the first place. Korean girls, she says, are "available and desperate," but this sounds more like a description of Korea decades ago (at least regarding the use of 'desperate').

And when she writes that "their immobile bodies absorb the cost of whiteness," I'm reminded of cases like this, and the way in which white women are perceived by some Korean men who want to "ride the white horse" and post tips on "hunting" white or other foreign women. One gets the idea, however, that Koreans can only serve as victims, and not perpetrators.


(Both scenes are from the 2003 film "Please Teach Me English")

What is rather disturbing is the degree to which the attitude above, particularly in demonizing white men and portraying Korean women as dupes and victims, is similar to others we've seen before, such as this:
It's always just sad that some thoughtless women sympathize with foreigners who they don't realize have approached them with this (sexually demeaning) way of thinking about Korean women." "This is a place where people who are worried about this and who want to make an issue of foreigners who demean Korean women as if they are all cheap whores."
The place in question is the Anti-English Spectrum cafe, and the writer was 'Bba'allyuchi,' its founder. The cafe was founded during the 2005 English Spectrum Incident, and responded to women seen dancing with foreign men in a less-than favorable fashion: "Some online articles and the Anti-English Spectrum cafe branded us as whores, yanggongju, and pimps." Likewise, for members of the cafe and critics of these women, there was a corollary to "tight Asian pussy": "but later when a Korean guy takes her home, he'll know by her massively stretched hole he's been tricked and she's a whore."

Such criticism has appeared more recently, of course. A 2012 report on MBC portrayed women in relationships with white men in a negative manner (complete with an AIDS scare), and the producer said that "the piece intended to portray 'Korean women who are out of their sense and get involved in these kinds of affairs.'" He also said that "We need to be awakened and try to change this culture," NoCut News that same year published its 12-part "The Reality and Twisted Values of Some White Men" Series, while the next year JTBC described foreign men who try to pick up Korean women as having committed "sex crimes" and even dramatized a 'pick up' manual:



In a similar manner, the internet tabloid Ilyo Sisa also published a tour de force in the summer of 2012 titled "'Tips for targeting Korean women' spread by foreign English instructor spreads quickly: Treat them as 'sex toys' and throw them away when they're finished":
The disparaging of Korean women by foreign English instructors and foreigners living in Gangnam or Itaewon is not something that just started yesterday. White men who deliberately approach Korean women for sex or to defraud them commit all kinds of illegal acts against Korean women. Even worse, anyone can commonly hear about incidents of illegal drug taking and rape by foreigners. However, claims that the cause of these incidents is a national character which is lenient towards white people are gaining traction. We are publicizing detailed excerpts of some posts from "Anti English Spectrum," a blog which denounces the barbarity of foreigners.[...]

Though Korean men have a more outstanding financial capability than white men, Korean women absorbed in white supremacy prefer white men more and think they can learn English for free and choose white men without hesitation. Among northeast Asians (Japan, China, Korea), Korean women are considered the easiest and fastest to sleep with[.] [...]

Because of the open sexual consciousness Korean women have towards white men, there are countless instances of harm done to them. One woman became pregnant after a one night stand with a white man she met in a club, and after finding out contacted the white man but he had already left the country and she decided to get an abortion.[...]

Another woman's case was even more serious. C, a university student who had dated a foreign man once, said in a media interview, "Foreigners' habitual fraud can be seen as charming. They often move in together with a girl and pretend to be her lover and then pocket the rent and deposit and leave the country, and a girl I know who dated a foreign man had a health check and was diagnosed with AIDS and sank into depression." "Most of them (white men) think of Korean woman as targets for one night stands, and there are almost none who think of having a romantic relationship with them. When something happens with a girl, they get afraid and evade responsibility by changing their phone number beforehand or by leaving the country and disappearing."
The tone of these such articles vacillates between portraying these women as victims of dastardly white men or as clueless dupes who are far too willing to trust white men (and thus are responsible for their predicament and deserve criticism (or worse)). I'll leave it to the reader to decide where "Under white gaze, Korean girls [are] available and desperate" fits.

As for depicting them as victims of white men who would rape them, such one dimensional portrayals can be found outside of newspapers or websites:

(From the 2008 TV show "Sexy Mong Returns," billed as "an episode involving sexual assault by foreign English teachers, something that has been a social issue for some time." The rapist is in fact a Korean man who pretends to be a foreigner because women like foreigners more... but he still needs to drug and rape them for some reason.)


(From the 2008 TV show "Shin Hae-cheol's Damage." The episode, "Foreign Instructor and Club Girl," which features "Memories of an unforgettable gang rape!" can be watched here. Shin has performed at least one rather Anti-American song, with a little help from Psy.)



The latter film, Queen Bee, is from 1985 and features white and black foreigners violating their way through Itaewon. At that time there was a great deal of discussion on the place of white foreigners in Korean society (which led to the French foreign language teacher scandal of 1984), such as when an American was caught forging checks and living off the generosity of Korean women ("Koreans have a weakness for foreigners"), as well as an article about Itaewon from 1984 which differed from articles about Itaewon from the previous year in the Maeil Gyeongje (October 8, 1983) and Donga Ilbo (July 27, 1983) in that it portrayed foreigners in Itaewon in a very negative manner,

In January 2005 Ilda, a feminist journal, published an article about the English Spectrum incident which argued that "when extreme nationalism and patriarchal views meet, they run counter to the issue of women's rights." What happens, then, when nationalism and feminism meet? In the 1980s and 1990s there was a great deal of feminist organizing in regard to issues surrounding the US military presence in Korea. In many ways this is understandable; foreign men are a much easier target (one that Korean men would agree on) than taking on home-grown patriarchy. A Donga Ilbo article from 1988 titled "Obscene magazines, decadent movies, AIDS: 'Let's expel low American culture'" gives an example of the post-1988 Olympics mood: 
There are many incidents of the ravaging of Korean women by U.S. forces in Korea and even crimes such as molestation, and in the climate of the unfair ROK-U.S. Status-of-Forces Agreement, Korean women wind up being thoughtlessly treated like "conquered women."
While such negative portrayals of foreigners can (and did, and still does) move into racist territory, women are clear-cut victims in the stories it relays. One aspect of American culture which was bitterly criticized was an article by Hustler magazine called "Hustler's Olympic-goer's Guide to Korean Sex," which focused on paid sex in Itaewon and made some comments which raised the ire of Koreans who read it:
Korean women are the horniest, lustiest, most fuckable females on earth. Whatever she is like in the 'outside world,' bring a Korean female into close proximity of a cock, and her passions take over, [...A] huge cadre of the country's females are today sexual enthusiasts of the first order. They are available to all comers, black and white, foreign and domestic.
In the view of the 1988 Donga Ilbo article above, the Hustler article "introduced Korean women as all being prostitutes," something which was understandably insulting. In discussing the international position of Korea, the activists criticized such things as the Korean government's kisaeng tourism and the resulting position of women vis-a-vis foreigners. Such criticism may have functioned in a more coherent manner when dealing with prostitution, but when it deals with sex outside of prostitution, problems seem to arise. This situation had already arisen by 1984, and people did not have kind things to say about the young women who 'gave it away for free' in Itaewon:
"It's not just foreigners' prostitutes, now it's female university students or teenagers from good families who chase after foreigners and spend money on them, and when I see it I think it's pathetic," said Hong Gwan-pyo, who has sold souvenirs in the area for 8 years, with a sour look on his face.[...]

Han Hyung-sik (46) said "On average I carry out marriage procedures for about 20 international couples a month, but more than 70% return to divorce. Wearing a bitter expression, he also said, "When you see the unbearable sight of girls who come from university who fall only for the the appearance of white people who seem to be imbued with 'ladies first' kindness and then marry badly, even one's sense of national pride is ruined."
When nationalism comes into the picture, attempts to wrestle with "yellow fever" often end up taking on the tenor of yellow journalism, complete with misleading statistics and incredibly negative portrayals of certain (racial) groups. White men make easy money and rape and flee in the picture presented in the article. Relegating the Korean women involved in militarized prostitution to the category of 'victim of American imperialism' and nothing more was criticized in Hyun Sook Kim's chapter (in Dangerous Women: Gender and Korean Nationalism) "Yanggongju as an allegory of the nation":
[W]e must recognize that military sex workers have not been completely colonized by patriarchy, militarism, imperialism or neo-colonialism; the women do assert agency and subjectivity as Korean women. In what ways to the outcast military sex workers resist, reject, and try to invert the power hierarchy that relegates them to the lowest social standing? Do we retain the metaphor of nation as the representative discourse for collective unity and female identity, or can we develop an alternative discourse on/for military sex workers that will not re-colonize or subordinate their bodies or identities? This essay raises these unresolved questions and emphasizes the need to further investigate the ways in which the subject positions of working class women in sexual labor are constructed in defense of the nation. The first step towards 'pivoting the center' may be to chart the multiple, fragmented subjectivities of working class Korean women, such as military sex workers who have historically been excluded from scholarship and represented as passive objects in popular and radical representations. Answering these unresolved questions would thus require a critical feminist analysis of the power relations inscribed in the reading, writing and public presentations of women as the victim, the oppressed, and the exploited. Instead of essentializing the experiences of the women of Kijich'on as categorically "Yanggongju," we must begin acknowledging the agency, subjectivity, and resistance of working class women.
Her chapter is critical of those who would define these women for their own purposes, rather than actually talking to them and hearing their own stories and understanding of their experiences. I haven't come across any more of her work, unfortunately.

As can be seen in the excerpts from Korean news media above, with criticism of the "open sexual consciousness Korean women have towards white men" and of "Korean women absorbed in white supremacy" or "Korean women who are out of their sense and get involved in these kinds of affairs," the portrayal of these women as deluded victims overlaps with what appears to be a Korean male desire to discipline these women, or at least demand more moral behavior from them (like not engaging in "sex crimes" with foreigners).

This isn't to say that sex crimes aren't committed by some white men in Korea, or that some don't treat women (or girls) in incredibly callous ways with long-term consequences. They do. But they aren't the only ones, and to focus on them alone suggests another agenda is at work. Even worse is the fact that by portraying Korean women as devoid of agency, or as passive dupes ("Under white gaze, Korean girls [are] available and desperate." "The white man becomes the dream."), this not only echoes the xenophobic and misogynist responses of Korean nationalists, it also inadvertently reproduces the discourse of those being criticized in the first place. Is there really that great a difference between "Korean girls [are] available and desperate" and Hustler's claim that "a huge cadre of the country's females are...available to all comers"?

Making use of nationalist tropes without first unearthing the assumptions embedded within them can undermine the very argument one is trying to make, and leave one, as in this case, stuck in bed between neocolonial pricks and misogynist xenophobes.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Portrait of the ex-president as a young woman

And so President Park has been impeached and an election is to follow. Interesting times, to say the least. As I'm researching the crackdown on youth culture during the mid-1970s by her father (which resulted in over 50 musicians, film directors, actors, and other artists being banned from performing for life for smoking marijuana), the Park Geun-hye administration's massive artist blacklist certainly seemed familiar, though, of course, that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Oddly, it was just the other night I came across these images of Korea Herald articles from 1975 that include two articles about the now ex-president which might be of interest. One mentions her first press conference as first-lady, when she was a "shy" and "bashful" 23-year-old, where she speaks of her hopes for private life included wanting "to have a small house in the bright sunshine." As she put it, "At the sunny house, I would love to wait for friends, making tea and cake. And also it would be very nice to have enough time to read." There seems to be more than just a little whiff of the tragic in all of this.

Also, it's a bit eerie how she almost looks the same now as she did then.

Just in case these open in the photo viewer, the links to the images are here and here.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Korea Herald on HIV tests for English teachers

The Korea Herald published an article the other day titled "Controversy persists over HIV test for English teachers." The most important part of the article is this section:
This policy, introduced in 2007 after complaints from locals over “dangerous law-breaking foreigners,” including English teachers, may come to an end soon, as the government is considering a recent recommendation by the country’s human rights panel to do away with it.

“The Justice Ministry is collecting opinions from relevant ministries such as the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Welfare to decide whether to accept the recommendation,” it said in response to an inquiry by The Korea Herald.

A recommendation of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea is not legally binding, but the government must decide whether to accept it within 90 days. In this case, the deadline is Dec. 7.
Hmmm. While it's good to know when the deadline is, December 7 [or the 8th, in Asia] isn't a day in history which featured Westerners being particularly well-treated in Asia.

 Monument to Asia Rising...

...December 8, 1941.
(This is what replaced Horace Underwood's statue at Yonsei University; it now stands in the garden of Yonsei's museum. Hat tip to JiHoon for showing me this.

But back to the article:
"We made health checks mandatory for some foreigners through a revision of the AIDS Prevention Act in 2007 after some crimes by foreign language instructors and illegal drug use led to social problems," an official from the Justice Ministry said.
And I was just voted president of the United States. Seriously? How about: "We made health checks for HIV and drugs mandatory for some foreigners through a policy memo which, when challenged, we said was perfectly legal but meanwhile were quietly changing to an enforcement ordinance / regulation which was passed on April 3, 2009, almost a year and a half after we began testing teachers" (first result here; check cache for non-hwp version). The E-2 tests were not enforced by a revision of the AIDS Prevention Act.
"Even if we scrap the mandatory HIV testing, many are still subject to the testing according to the AIDS Prevention Act by the health ministry or Private Institute Management Act by the Education Ministry," the official said. "And we don’t send back foreigners or don’t refuse to issue alien cards when they are proven HIV-positive."
Again, there's nothing connecting E-2 visa-holders to the Aids Prevention Act, As for the Private Institute Management Act, have a look here. You won't see anything about HIV tests. Drug tests are mandated, yes, but not HIV tests. But hey, that's just two things completely wrong. I'm sure we can take the "And we don’t send back foreigners or don’t refuse to issue alien cards when they are proven HIV-positive" at face value.
In 2009, Lisa Griffin from New Zealand, who was then an English teacher at an Ulsan-based elementary school, filed a petition to the NHRCK as well as to the UN International Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination after her school refused to renew her contract over her refusal to submit an HIV test result.

The UN committee ruled last year that HIV testing of teachers on E-2 visas is racial discrimination, saying the policy is not “justified on public health or any other grounds.” The committee urged the Korean government to compensate her for moral and material damages.

In September, the NHRCK also backed the UN decision, calling it "stigmatizing" and "discriminatory."
This muddles the chronology. Yes, a petition was filed to the NHRCK - which rejected it. A petition was also filed to the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board - which rejected it. The only reason it could be taken to CERD was because these "Local [or domestic] Remedies" failed to provide redress. The NHRCK only took up the case after CERD ruled in Griffin's favor.

Shall we pass by the assertion that "Without the HIV testing, there is no way to screen teachers from abroad and keep our children safe"? Like shooting fish in a barrel, so let's. Moving on:
But Lee Kyung-ja, who heads the parents’ rights group Student First, said that foreign teachers and Korean teachers alike should go through the HIV testing. "It is worrisome that more and more young people contract HIV-AIDS these days and we don’t know where they get it from," Lee said. "To ensure children’s health, all teachers -- whether they are foreign or local -- should prove that they are HIV-free."
To her question about where they get it from: having sex with someone who has HIV or sharing needles. Mind you, the drug arrest reports for foreign teachers tend to reveal busts for marijuana or perhaps ecstasy - not the kind of thing you inject intravenously. The article includes these statistics:
According to government data, the cumulative number of HIV and AIDS patients was 10,502 through last year, since the first case surfaced in 1985, with 92.7 percent of the patients being male. There were 1,152 newly registered cases last year, with 33.3 percent of them being in their 20s. Among them, 1,018 were Korean.
There are more statistics here (since 1985).
[T]he compulsory HIV testing of certain groups will only reinforce long-held stigmas and fear surrounding HIV and AIDS in the country, alienating and excluding people living with the disease, another expert said.

Patients living with HIV and AIDS are often subject to discrimination and have trouble accessing health care facilities, traveling and seeking employment.

"The government’s health polices for preventing HIV-AIDS come from ignorance," said Son Moon-soo, who heads an association of HIV and AIDS patients called KNP+. "The outdated measures create the wrong perception that HIV-AIDS is a foreign disease which foreigners brought into the country." [...]

"Rather than implementing discriminatory policies against foreigners, there should be more education on safe sex and how HIV-AIDS is transmitted and prevented to fight the disease," Son said.
As has been noted before, the stigma in Korea against HIV-AIDS is pervasive and has stark consequences for those who have been infected. In fact, the stigma is deadlier than the disease.