ATEK is taking its fight against what it feels to be “discriminatory” visa regulations to the NHRCK:

An association for 20,000 foreign English teachers said Wednesday they will fight against discrimination in Korea, indicating they will step up their crusade against proposed legislation requiring them to submit drug tests and criminal background checks. However, Ministry of Justice downplayed the action.

The association issued a statement to protest a proposed revision to the Immigration Law proposed by 18 lawmakers last December, and now pending at the National Assembly, which would require all foreigners seeking Korean work visas to undergo drug tests and criminal background checks as a “measure to deal with the threat foreign workers pose to society’s public order and people’s health.”

It filed complaints with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK), claiming the government’s visa regulations were discriminative. They also vowed to launch a campaign against the discrimination.

“The current drugs tests, HIV tests and criminal background checks are discriminatory. They reflect a mindset that foreign teachers are potentially dangerous just because they are foreign,” said Tony Hellmann, the communication director of the Association for Teachers of English in Korea (ATEK).

The Justice Ministry, naturally enough, feels otherwise:

In response, the Ministry of Justice said there was no possibility that the human right agency would rule that the visa regulation was discriminative.

“A visa policy is a country’s own right. You cannot blame a country for controlling the entry of foreign nationals,” said Kim Young-guen, a ministry official.

Again, for the record, I agree with the Justice Ministry on this one. Sure, it’s discriminatory to go just after the E-2 applicants only… but it’s a pretty good start! We’re talking about visa regulations here, which are by definition discriminatory — if they weren’t, we’d be letting in every Tom, Wang and Ahmed, and Korea’s got enough douche bags of its own to worry about without having to worry about other countries’ douche bags. I should also say I don’t object to immigration authorities discriminating on the basis of national origin… of course, I also listen to John Derbyshire, so make of that what you will.

The only thing I really object to is the IN-COUNTRY drug and HIV tests. That sort of business should be taken care of during the visa application process BEFORE people are let in.

Anyway, ATEK has launched a campaign to get people to submit complaints to the National Human Rights Commission — their homepage tells you exactly how to do it. Said ATEK’s Tony Hellmann in the KT:

“Large numbers of complaints will show the UN that there is a problem here,” Hellmann said. “We urge all teachers to exercise the rights granted them under the Korean constitution, and fill out the online form. It takes only five minutes and the Commission does not share your name or identifying information with any other government agencies. Your complaint is anonymously investigated.”

As a word of encouragement to ATEK, I’d say this is precisely the kind of case the National Human Rights Commission would take seriously. After all, none of you are North Korean, are you?

To acquaint yourself with some of the legal issues involved, read ATEK’s interview with Kyunghee University Law School associate professor Benjamin Wagner here.