Tuesday, June 2, 2009

(Updated) Taking E-2 visa regs to court.

An excerpt from the Korea Times:
A group of human rights lawyers plan to file a petition with the Constitutional Court against what they call discriminatory visa rules that require foreign English teachers to submit documents on health checks and criminal records.

Chang Suh-yeon, an attorney with the Korean Public Interest Lawyers Group ``Gong-Gam,'' told The Korea Times Tuesday that her group will take the issue to the court this week or next.

``The visa law violated the Constitution that guarantees a basic right to freedom, equal treatment, the pursuit of happiness and the protection of privacy,'' Chang said.

``The visa law is based on vague prejudice and bias that foreign English teachers have disordered sex lives and use drugs,'' she added.

I have to wonder why people are talking to the Times when, after reviewing my notes and old posts, they've been far-and-away the English-language outlet that's been the most guilty of spreading this prejudice and bias in its reporting. I'll draw your attention to this paragraph
E-2 visa holders have contended that the government should apply the same visa screening rules to foreign English teachers holding other visas, urging the government to use the same restrictions on teachers holding E-1 (professorship), F-2 (spouse of a Korean) or F-4 (ethnic Korean) visas. They made it clear that they don't oppose background checks as a rule.

and remind readers that this paper and this writer, Kang Shin-woo, have made the same distortion twice before, including, as Gusts of Popular Feeling has pointed out, inventing quotations from Professor Benjamin Wagner.

The article doesn't say what, exactly, "the issue" is and what the lawyer and the professor are fighting against. Instead it looks like a bunch of different issues are being conflated here, and gives the impression that teachers are objecting to criminal background checks, or to health exams in general. The professor in question, as you'll see when you scroll down, submitted a background check, but objected to the HIV test. Another excerpt:
In response, the ministry says that a visa policy is a country's own right and foreign nationals are not entitled to complain about it. ``We believe the human rights agency is well aware of this fact and will take sides with us,'' said Ahn Kyu-seok, a ministry official.

Well, I get Ahn's point, and that a country ultimately has the right to accept or reject whomever it pleases. However, I hope the human rights agency doesn't rule against groups for, um, "complaining." For more on the case in question, see my original write-up from March. An excerpt from a KT article back then:
Instead of producing documents showing HIV/AIDS and drug test results, [the professor] gave an immigration officer a letter.

It reads: ``Unfortunately, I will not be submitting the HIV/ AIDS test results or the tuberculosis drug test results that you have requested. These tests unreasonably discriminate against me as a foreigner living in Korea and are a violation of my human rights.''

In the letter, she also said that she has lived and worked in Korea for more than three years and does not understand why she is suddenly suspected of being a danger to Korean society.

``I have done nothing wrong, and yet the Korea Immigration Service wants to search my body. This is an invasion of my most private and personal rights and an affront to my human dignity,'' she said.

Give the NHRCK report referenced in the initial article a read, if you haven't already. Interestingly, it looks like a follower of this blog is going through a similar headache with these HIV and drug tests.


ROK Hound said...

"the ministry says that a visa policy is a country's own right and foreign nationals are not entitled to complain about it."

Well, this comes back to Wagner's complaint. Yes, of course, Korea has the right to put in measures to reject or let in foreigners according to whatever measures/tests they wish to impose... BEFORE they enter Korea.

But once they are IN Korea, they are supposed to be protected by Korea's Constitution, which where the lawyer's arguments will concentrate, I assume.

Brian said...

I'll add this in the comments because it would be deceitful to edit the post, but it looks like this KT reporter got it wrong, again:
E-2 visa holders have contended that the government should apply the same visa screening rules to foreign English teachers holding other visas, urging the government to use the same restrictions on teachers holding E-1 (professorship), F-2 (spouse of a Korean) or F-4 (ethnic Korean) visas. They made it clear that they don't oppose background checks as a rule.

Brian said...

On second thought---not because I'm trying to be deceitful---I've added that portion into the post itself.

WeikuBoy said...

Brian, will you or one of your readers please explain this to me like I'm stupid. What is wrong with the KT's paragraph (the one you added into your post on second thought)? Obviously I'm not clear about what it is these plaintiffs (or whatever they are called here in this case) are seeking. Do they want E-2's to be treated like other foreign teachers? Or like all teachers, Korean and foreign? Or do they object to HIV and drug tests for any teachers, or for any persons? Thanks.

Benjamin said...

Brian - the reason that Kang had access to Gong-gam was because of this article:


He was the only one who would publish an article about a woman who claimed that the MOJ gave her a visa without the checks.

Please note the MOJ at that time came out and called Vandom a liar, saying she had done the checks and that's why she got the visa.

"But the KIS refuted the allegations. Kim Young-keun, a KIS spokesperson, said the immigration office in Suwon had received all of the necessary documents to allow the organization to grant a renewal. "It is impossible for us to grant a visa in violation of the regulations,'' he said.

But Vandom claimed the KIS denial is a fabrication. "It is shocking that the immigration office is lying about this. Why would I give them that letter if I were submitting the HIV/AIDS and drug tests?'' she said.

So to Kang's credit he believed Vandom over the MOJ [or he was ready to publish anything at all, you be the judges].

Anyway, one thing is clear. We know who the liar was:

"Andrea Vandom, working at Chung-Ang University, visited the Suwon Immigration Office last March and got the visa without health check documents.

After the incident, the immigration office said the approval was a mistake by an official and that it would ask her to submit the necessary documents. The office added that it would deport her if she didn't heed the request."


But as to why Gong-gam talked to Chang, he got quotes from them in the first article, so he'd been following it.

WeikuBoy said...

OK, this a.m. I followed the link in Brian's 10:05pm comment (above) over to Gusts of Popular Feeling, read or skimmed a long comment thread there, and now see that it is not just I who was/am confused. I think I have a better handle on the gist of their complaint, though still not firm enough to try to summarize it here.

By the way, Prof. Wagner's history of the F-2 visa was very interesting. Along the way, I learned that in the 1995 subway incident the ajosshi spit on and slapped the young wife prior to her GI husband physically responding. I hadn't known that.

Bonus: on CNN this morning I learned that the lone Chinese protester who so famously stood before the tank following the Tian An Men massacre twenty years ago was eventually urged out of the way to (relative) safety. Until now I had believed his fate was unknown.

Another mystery is history.

Korean Rum Diary said...

That article is retarded. I also felt the need to write about it, and I wrote an e-mail to the Korea Times, demanding the editors fire the dumbass reporter.

My Article: Racism & Hypocrisy: The Korea Times and the Ministry of Justice

Benjamin said...

Korean Rum Diary - if you are in a letter writing mood, mind shooting one over the JoongAng Daily for me? The reporters are Seo Ji-eun and Ahn Hai-ri.

They have me engaging in some kind of twisted human rights struggle to subject all foreigners to compulsory AIDS tests!!

Legal world at odds over HIV tests

"In February, Benjamin Wagner, an associate professor at Kyung Hee University Law School, petitioned the National Human Rights Commission to widen the scope of medical tests for HIV and drug abuse to the entire foreign language community here to include holders of E-1 professor visas, F-2 visas for foreigners married to Koreans and F-4 visas for ethnic Koreans."

If it weren't crying over the insanity of this piece, I'd be laughing my guts out. These reporters, like Kang, have a pretty tough time keeping their heads out of their asses long enough to complete a sentence.

Another stumbling block for them has been the "TBPE" drug exam - where TBPE is an abbreviation for a long string of chemicals. But since TBPE doesn't show up in the cell phone English to Korean dictionary, they figure it must just be "TB" - you know, tuberculosis. Yeah, TB is missing 50% of the original TB+PE part, but in the K-media game sometimes you gotta just say 'what the fuck' and go to print. So the "TBPE drug test" becomes: tuberculosis + drug test:

"The authority says tests on three categories - HIV, tuberculosis and drug use"


As for my quotes, the JoongAng Daily acknowledged its mistake and has promised a correction.

They never called me for an interview. They didn't read the NHRCK report. They didn't read any statements I had made in the press.

If they had done any research at all, they would have learned the following:

“Testing Teachers for Drugs and AIDS,” Feb. 11, 2009, The Korea Times.

“As for HIV testing, everyone (citizen or non-citizen) should be encouraged to voluntarily receive HIV tests for their own protection and the protection of others. However, I reject compulsory HIV tests for foreigners and forced deportation for those found positive for the same reasons that Judge Yu Seung-Jeong rejected them in his November 2008 Seoul High Court decision canceling the deportation order of a foreigner who tested positive for HIV . . . it is more in Korea's interest to detect and treat HIV/AIDS than simply to deport.”

“Human rights advocates defend E-2 rules challenge,” June 4, 2009, Korea Herald

"This is not a demand for HIV checks on more foreigners," said Ben Wagner, an American lawyer who teaches International law at Kyung Hee University Law School who filed the NHRCK report. "It's absurd to even think that a human rights group would even suggest that."

“Prejudice or ineptitude? Let court decide,” June 5, 2009, Korea Herald.

"If you have a deportation policy, then immediately you have a strong disincentive for people to get tested and for those who have AIDS to get treatment.

"The biggest problem is stigma and discrimination."

You need to encourage voluntary testing by protecting their human rights."

“유엔 총장까지 나선 외국인 에이즈 검사 논란,” June 5, 2009, 중앙일보

외국인 강사의 에이즈 검사와 관련해 국가인권위원회에 진정을 냈던 경희대 법학과 벤저민 와그너 교수는 “일하러 한국에 온 외국인들에게 부당한 대우를 하면 국가 이미지가 나빠질 것” 이라고 말했다.

NHRCK Report

The E-2 visa compulsory HIV/AIDS tests and deportation policy knowingly fail to “protect children and young students” from HIV/AIDS, and may actually increase the threat of infection. .

The Korean government was therefore able to exploit the public’s ignorance by implementing in-country HIV tests for foreign English teachers that gave the public the illusion of protection, but, as will be explained, heightened the risk to the Korean public.

This report does not advocate compulsory HIV or drug for any teachers.

mat_g00d said...

Hi Brian,

I have been reading your blog since 2007, it's very informative -- thanks for keeping it going.

Could you tell me about the tuberculosis test? I can't seem to find an exact answer on Korea message boards. Are the Koreans only testing for active TB? Would they deport someone who has inactive, latent TB (likely born with it, took medication to make it even more dormant)?

Thanks for your time.