On a related topic, at the Korea Herald a few weeks ago Daniel Fiedler discussed AIDS testing policy and beliefs about HIV/AIDS in Korea:
Recent surveys by the Korean CDC show that over 50 percent of the population still believes kissing can transmit the virus and almost eighty percent still believe that mosquitoes can transmit the virus. Of greater concern is the erroneous belief that the virus is primarily a “foreign” disease which leads to unsafe sex practices in domestic relations.He goes on to say that Korea's "initial reasoned response [to AIDS in the 1980s] has mutated into a policy based on racism and misinformation." I'm not sure if I'd describe all of the Korean government's response during Korea's first AIDS scare in February 1987 as 'reasoned' (though parts of it certainly were, and the plans set forth to designate certain hospitals as testing centers, to set up hotlines and test donated blood seemed well thought out, though I don't know how the implementation of these plans turned out). Some planned policies (such as requiring all tourists arriving for the Olympics to be tested) were rather over the top, and were abandoned as soon as the government realized a Korean-language report on its intentions had been translated and reported around the world. A Health Ministry spokesman even went so far as to describe as "groundless" the Joongang Ilbo article which directly quoted Health and Social Affairs Minister Rhee Hai-won saying that, due to 300,000 tourists visiting during the Olympics, "there are concerns that after the Olympics there will be a sudden spread of AIDS domestically," and that he would press the WHO to require Olympic tourists to carry AIDS free certificates at an upcoming meeting in Sydney. Clearly, "groundless" in this case translates as "that was in Korean and meant for Korean eyes only," a defense/denial which came up again recently.
Fiedler goes on to say in closing that
This change has resulted in a growing international perception of South Koreans as ignorant and xenophobic.In 1987 Korea obviously cared more about what the outside world thought, and immediately changed its planned policy when it 'leaked' out to the rest of the world. I'm not sure that there's such concern now, especially considering the fact that Korea (officially) lifted HIV testing for migrant workers and entertainers, but left it in place for often young, university educated westerners. Mind you, it's easy enough to do that when you've convinced yourself that this group is the latest incarnation of the 'western bandits', "half-barbarians who only thought of doing harm to [t]his country" (as George Foulk put it in 1884) that have plagued Korea's modern history by doing dastardly things like