The issue of foreign English teachers being forced to take a HIV test before gaining employment in Korea has come up again:
One of my favorite cartoons from the English Spectrum-gate timeframe.
To teach English in Korea, Christina had to prove she was not HIV-positive.
The US citizen was reluctant, but complied with the rule, undergoing a blood test for HIV and submitting the results to local authorities in order to get a job at a public school.
When she found out that Korean and Korean-American teachers at the school were exempted from the test despite doing the same job, she was offended.
“It perpetuates perceptions of foreigners as dirty, dangerous and impure. I think it is discriminatory and xenophobic,” said Christina, who first came to Korea in 2010 and now teaches in Gwangju.
“It also perpetuates stereotypes about HIV and the people who have it,” she told The Korea Herald.
For nearly a decade, South Korea has made it mandatory for foreigners wishing to work here to undergo blood tests for HIV, rejecting those found to be HIV-positive.
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. [Korea Herald]
You can read much more at the link, but over at Gusts of Popular Feeling there is a good run down on the history of the HIV testing law.
For those who are not long time readers of the ROK Drop the passing of the mandatory HIV testing law had nothing to do with concerns about HIV or drugs. It began in 2005 when English Spectrum-gate occurred. Some foreign English teachers made derogatory comments about Korean women on the English Spectrum website that a Korean netizen noticed. It soon exploded within the Korean Internet community who rallied to take down the webpage. However, the taking down of English Spectrum did not stop the Korean netizen fury against what they believed to be unqualified foreign English teachers running around the country taking drugs and molesting Korean women. An Anti-English Spectrum group was formed that actually wanted to provoke incidents with foreigners in certain university areas in order to push them out.
The controversy led the Korean government to order a crackdown against foreign English teachers. The crackdown got so bad I felt compelled to offer my advice to English teachers on how to blend in as a US GI. The anti-English Spectrum group was eventually able to lobby to get laws passed in 2007 to make it harder to get an E2 visa which is how the HIV testing came about. Since then the Korean government has faced accusations of discrimination, but have refused to revoke the HIV testing law. It looks like within the next few weeks we will know if South Korea will continue to enforce this discriminatory law.