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English Teachers File Complaint with Human Rights Commission

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.

About the author: Just the administrator of this humble blog.

  • globalvillageidiot

    “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.”

    Fair enough, but with regard to local douche bags – who overwhelmingly outnumber the foreign ones – and assuming that the Ministry of Justice’s regulations should be about protecting Korean children, they might also want to apply drug and disease testing and criminal background checks to all teachers working with kids.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Sure… or how about just firing teachers who actually get caught doing something:

    http://koreabeat.com/?p=3654

    I agree that the authorities are criminally lenient with offenders. I’d also agree that the changes in visa regulations are mostly the product of sensational media stories. That said, visa requirements for E-2 visas were so lax in the past that any tightening has to be welcomed, regardless of the inspiration.

  • jdog2050

    @ 1

    Exactly…there’s some F2′s and F5′s over on Dave’s whining about this. Guess what, if you work with kids, you should be subject to the same “regulations”.

  • broken76

    I’m all for background checks and medicals for teachers whether they are Korean or foreign.
    I think that it should be removed from the Visa standpoint and be instituted by the Board of Education instead in order to cover everyone that works with children while allowing those that don’t work with children to not have to go through the process.
    Having all F type visas go through it isn’t a solution since a large number of F type visa holders aren’t teachers.
    I think that the checks should pretty much be for everyone that works in or for a school including teachers and staff regardless of nationality or race. By having it done through the school board it doesn’t become a race issue.

  • http://www.san-shin.org sanshinseon

    Their argument that the checks required for E-2 visa holders should be equivilent with those for Korean school or hagwan teachers, to avoid pejudicial discrimination “on the basis of national origin” seems sound and correct.

    However, when they have “complained that the government should apply the same visa screening rules” to foreigners holding other visas — well, they might have a point for those F-2 or F-4 slackers, and the E-7 rabble, those woiguks who are merely editors, bloggers, lawyers and such disreputable sorts, and most certainly for those who dirty their hands (and souls) with crass matters of “business”.

    But they are quite mistaken if they intend to include E-1 holders, who are simply and obviously a better class of human beings — upon whose background, character and behavior no one may fairly cast any suspicion or aspersion. Those blessed with E-1 visas have impeccable bloodlines, unsullied hands, unblemishished records, rarefied minds and white-crane spirits. They are seonbi who never engage with the muddy filth of this world, their attentions ever exclusively fixed upon classical and orthodox philosophies and dignified actions in accordance with them.

    To even suggest that the E-1 scholars might have anything out-of-place in their backgrounds or impure in their bloodstreams, and ought to be treated in a similar way as the lowly E-2 potential-criminal class is an intolerable insult, and in fact a threat to (rebellion against) the entire moral social order. Exemplary punishments should be undertaken by the authorities…

  • http://www.koreaittimes.com mateomiguel

    As a member of the E-7 rabble, I must support the oratory of my esteemed E-1 sanshinseon, and only hope to some day subscribe to his newsletter, for I find his ideas intriguing.

  • Darth Babaganoosh

    I can see the guy from Daejeon trying to contact sanshinseon now, wanting him to be his lawyer.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Wasn’t the guy in Daejeon an E-1 holder?

  • BenjaminWagner

    “The only thing I really object to is the IN-COUNTRY drug and HIV tests.”

    This is precisely my argument Robert. We are talking about 재한 외국인
    not 외국인 and there’s a difference. If you’re in-country (i.e.ENTERED), then you are under the protection of Korean laws.

    “We’re talking about visa regulations here…”

    I’ll have to correct you on this one though Robert. We aren’t talking about “regulations” at all. In fact, we aren’t even talking about law. I was pleased to see that the government has finally come out and admitted this:

    “Kim Young-geun, a deputy director at the Justice Ministry’s Korea Immigration Service . . . said although there is NO ACTUAL LAW that mandates foreigners to undergo medical and criminal record checks, the ministry’s ‘policy memo has enough legal authority to implement the visa requirement as it was created by the Justice Ministry on the government’s behalf.’”
    http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2900646

    Justice Ministry Offical Kim Young-geun says:

    “You cannot blame a country for controlling the entry of foreign nationals”

    With all due respect to Justice Ministry Offical Kim, I have no interest in casting blame on the ROK for controlling the entry of foreign nationals. But the individuals who have been subject to the HIV and drug testing have already ENTERED the ROK, in fact many had been living in Korea for years before being told to report to hospitals for HIV and drug tests. The visa requirements clearly state“[t]hose that are found to have drug intake, AIDS or other disease the law defines as serious contagious disease in their health examination will have their stay cancelled and be DEPORTED.”
    http://www.hikorea.go.kr/pt/InfoDetailR_en.pt?categoryId=2&parentId=382&catSeq=385&showMenuId=374&visaId=E2

    You have to have ENTERED the country to be DEPORTED, so we aren’t talking about “entry requirements” either.

  • http://www.san-shin.org sanshinseon

    If he was once convicted of a deplorable crime as reported, then he couldn’t possibly have been one of the E-1 seonbi elite. Must have been a “Visiting Professor” on an E-2, which would make his background perfectly ordinary.

  • foobat

    im in FULL support of testing for teachers and it took too shockingly long to get anything started here.

    home country testing is a good idea, even better is to have the Ministry of Education handle it instead of the masters of boggle at immigration.

    all teachers should be tested regularly for drugs and submit CBCs. and not just teachers, those involved with a school in a capacity which brings them into contact with children should have the same standards applied to them as well.

    HIV testing cannot be done under the current conditions in Korea. No one in their right mind would subject themselves to a test unless they absolutely had to. im sure a great many Koreans avoid testing because of the government’s idea that HIV positive people should be locked up.

    its all too easy to keep kicking the E2s in the pants over “protecting the children” but the current policy of testing only the E2s looks more and more like the dog and pony show is when ‘The Guy’ from Daejeon was holding an E1 and CPN had an E7.

    like it or not, support it or not, the E2s and ATEK have a very good point about the law and what has been going on.

    the fear and xenophobia created a climate where blatant discrimination was acceptable by a lot of people because the rationalization that ‘foreigners are dirty’ continues to get support in the press and be a pervasive theme in Korean culture.

    but this discrimination may very well have a price … with a little more government bungling we could see the current system dropped completely simply because it is very, very discriminatory and the legal challenges are valid.

    there needs to be checks and tests, but i dont see an alternative more inclusive, less discriminatory system being put into place (that would almost be too massive a step for Korea). this leaves things as they are or lifted somewhat to appease the NHRC and maybe even the UN.

  • tbonetylr

    Robert,

    I think it is way too easy for you to talk now. If I’m not mistaken when you arrived here you were an English Teacher with an E-2 visa? If so, would you have come to S. Korea knowing that you had to come up with a criminal record check and submit Drug and HIV tests? Let’s also say you had done much research and knew that after 1 year of work you might have to submit the same shit the next year because simply because Immigration says?

  • craig

    As an E-2 holder, I have nothing against the government asking me for a background check and a health check. What isn’t cool, is that an employer owns your visa, not you. With the E-2 system there isn’t free labor mobility within the English education industry here in Korea. Asking to “be released” is odd to the say the least, and it is here where I have my biggest problem with the whole E-2 visa.

  • http://www.san-shin.org sanshinseon

    Yes — when i was first working for the hagwans here there were no checks of any kind, you didn’t need to show that you had a degree, just if the owner invited you to be an employee, and agreed to “sponsor” (take some limited responsibility for) you, then you got the working (teaching) visa. But then that hagwan owner didn’t “own” you, you could quit (or be let go) and work for someone else, or go entirely independent teaching privates, whatever — until your one-year visa ran out.

    In that “freedom of employment” factor it was much better. Should be noted that there were relatively very few Westerners teaching English here in those days, nothing remotely like today; those that were here were more appreciated for “helping Korea get modernized” and were not any kind of a negative social issue (the G.I.s handily filled the role of disparaged foreign demon).

    It was like that until 1984, when the French scandal impelled the government to impose restrictions such as the original visa sponsor becoming your slave-owner. Many good and self-respecting teachers left Korea at that point, in a kind of protest. Others like myself decided to upgrade from hagwans, as better opportunities were slowly spreading….

  • Granfalloon

    My problem with the sudden E-2 visa requirements was never the actual requirements themselves, but the context in which they were enacted. It seemed to me that national policy was being driven by a few editorials, a couple of comments on Naver, and an episode of “Sexy Mong.” As the previously posted ATEK interview proved, I was not far off. And that’s scary.

    Do I think that Korea has calmed down, come to its senses, and we foreigners need no longer fear discriminatory legislation? HELL NO. I say, go ahead ATEK and be as much of a thorn in the government’s side as possible. They brought it on themselves.

  • Scotty

    After a bit, I too got my head around the requirements. What I can’t get my head around is, as Granfalloon says, policy being driven by hysteria, in turn driven by sensational journalism, and a population seemingly unable to discriminate between fact and opinion. It’s like Korea is one big village and everyone’s captivated by the village gossip.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    #12,

    Yes, that would solve many problems. It would probably encourage a greater number of experienced teachers to come and/or stay in Korea. I would imagine that employers would also take better care of their employees.

    “A visa policy is a country’s own right. You cannot blame a country for controlling the entry of foreign nationals”

    You can if its visa policies are discriminatory according to its own constitution and laws.

  • Above Criticism

    Thanks, Sanshinseon! THAT (No 5) was funny (“white-crane spirits,” indeed).

  • http://www.san-shin.org sanshinseon

    No charge.
    Like noble bamboo, the E-1 seonbi lives to serve others.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    tbonetylr — Frankly, I think the government SHOULD be asking me for a criminal background check — for all they know, I could have been an ax murderer in New York. And let me do you one better — given my views on the English teaching profession, I wouldn’t have let me into the country to teach. I had no business being in a classroom.

  • Nappunsaram

    I think Koreans should do what the US does for anyone who wants a non-immigrant visa. We should ask them if they’ve ever kidnapped a child, been a prostitute, been addicted to drugs… and have them answer “yes” or “no.” After that, we should send them to an interview where they ask you the same questions that are on this paper:

    https://evisaforms.state.gov/ds156.asp

  • hamel

    This guy wants to know what the French scandal of 1984, to which Sanshinseon (showing his age) refers.

  • globalvillageidiot

    #10 – “its all too easy to keep kicking the E2s in the pants over “protecting the children” but the current policy of testing only the E2s looks more and more like the dog and pony show is when ‘The Guy’ from Daejeon was holding an E1 and CPN had an E7.”

    Exactly. If protecting the children was a greater priority, more than a token group of teachers would be screened. (I’m an F-5er, so I’m exempt from all this at the moment, but I’m alright with background checks for all people working in close contact with kids.) Unfortunately, unless the majority of teachers – Korean nationals – are also subjected to similar checks, most of the diddlers out there with the potential to harm kids under their care won’t be scrutinized.

    Wonder what Korean teachers’ unions would have to say about its members being tested and subjected to background checks?

  • globalvillageidiot

    #10 – “its all too easy to keep kicking the E2s in the pants over “protecting the children” but the current policy of testing only the E2s looks more and more like the dog and pony show is when ‘The Guy’ from Daejeon was holding an E1 and CPN had an E7.”

    Exactly. If protecting the children was a greater priority, more than a token group of teachers would be screened. (I’m an F-5er, so I’m exempt from all this at the moment, but I’m alright with background checks for all people working in close contact with kids.) Unfortunately, unless the majority of teachers – Korean nationals – are also subjected to similar checks, most of the diddlers out there with the potential to harm kids under their care won’t be scrutinized.

    Wonder what Korean teachers’ unions would have to say about its members being tested and subjected to background checks?

  • seouldout

    If memory serves me right there was a Frenchman who was arrested for illegally teaching. English I believe – this is long before Quebecois overran the place. There were allegations of sexual hijinks; not rape or molestation or train groping, but lots of consenting fornication w/ Korean women…who ought to have paid better attention in the Korean ethics class. They must’ve been worried they’d be caught outside after curfew, so they hooked up w/ him – those were the days. Anyway, upon his deportation at Kimpo the press (all of them, the entire nation’s) recorded him announcing how much he enjoyed banging their women. And how much the Korean women enjoyed being banged. He may have even declared, “I shall return. To bang again. Au revoir.”

    The new laws effectively stopped future scandals.

  • Granfalloon

    seouledout you flag: If Immigration wants laws that will stop consensual sex between foreign men and Korean women (assuming they have no problem with vice versa), they’ve got a long way to go. Good luck with that.

  • iwshim

    The 1984 French Scandal

    sanshinseon & seouldout

    Any ideas on where i can find details on this salacious story?

    Archives of the Korea Herald or Korea Times?

    Somebody needs to write a “This week in Korean History” piece for the Marmot. Maybe a tie-in with the open posting on Sunday?

  • http://www.san-shin.org sanshinseon

    The way i remember the 1984 French Scandal differs just slightly from seouldout — as is typical with folklore — my feble brain does not include airport boasting, but says that he returned to France he published an article bragging about how easy it was to make money teaching English despite being French, and how easy it was to seduce/bang naieve Korean virgins, tell them any kind of BS. A K-guy in Paris sent a translation of it to all K newspapers, and a shitstorm broke out. We got new laws. I would guess that details on this could only be found in old K papers — the Times & Herald didn’t usually publish much scandal back then — just as today, they still cover much up… “plus la change, plus la meme chose” or somethin’

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  • tbonetylr

    I can smell the ambulance chaser B. Carr lurking. Will he once and for all want the most possible E-2 Visa holders as clients to file some class action suit against the Korean Immigration Service if/when it is found that have been discriminated against?

  • Darth Babaganoosh

    Wonder what Korean teachers’ unions would have to say about its members being tested and subjected to background checks?

    I was under the impression that public school teachers already had to give background checks (plus, they all get medicals yearly or bi-yearly).

    It is the hagwons that are unregulated when it comes to Korean teachers. Any Joe Blow (or Joe Kim, if you prefer) diddler can get a job in a hagwon.

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