Ban on Foreign AIDS Patients to Be Lifted
By Kang Shin-who
Korea is moving to scrap its policy of banning foreigners with HIV/AIDS.
The plan emerged in the face of protest from foreigners and legal experts against what they call discriminatory measures.
They claim such policies infringe on human rights and have little effect on protecting Koreans from the contagious disease.
Under the immigration law, authorities can ban the entry of foreign nationals who test positive for HIV/AIDS, and then deport them. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon suggested that Korea abolish the policy.
According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 13 countries that ban the entry of foreign AIDS patients: the United Arab Emirates, Brunei, Egypt, Iraq, Korea, Malaysia, Oman, Singapore, Sudan, Yemen, Tunisia, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Qatar.
"The relevant ministries have yet to reach a conclusion on the issue," said Park Il-hoon, deputy director of the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs.
"However, we will continue to restrict AIDS patients in the entertainment business. Immigration officials will make necessary changes to the regulations."
Meanwhile, the Korea Immigration Service (KIS) said it has yet to decide whether to revise visa regulations requiring foreigners applying for certain types of visa to take AIDS tests.
It is mandatory for foreigners seeking E-2 (foreign language instructors), E-6 (entertainers, artists, athletes and models) and E-9 (non-professional employees) to submit HIV-negative confirmation statements.
"There will be no changes for E-6 visa applicants. We do not deal with non-professional workers as the Labor Ministry is responsible for AIDS tests on E-9 visa applicants," Ahn Kyu-seok, the KIS spokesman told the Korea Times.
"However, if the Constitutional Court rules that making foreign instructors submit documents on HIV tests is unconstitutional, we may have to scrap the requirement," Ahn added.
A group of human rights lawyers, called "Gong-Gam," last July filed a petition with the Constitutional Court against visa regulations requiring foreign English teachers to undergo HIV and drug tests.
In February, a foreign teachers group filed complaints with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, claiming the visa regulations were biased against foreign English teachers.
A court concluded last December that the immigration office should cancel the deportation order against a foreigner who tested positive for HIV, saying it was in the interest of Koreans to detect and treat HIV/AIDS rather than deport the victims.