Korea told to scrap HIV test on foreign teachers
By Jung Min-ho
The government remains slow in responding to calls for the removal of racist policies, running the risk of further alienating itself from global standards.
The latest case involves a New Zealand woman who brought her case to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) after she was denied a contract extension in 2009 for refusing to submit her HIV test results.
The U.N.-affiliated committee ruled Wednesday that the HIV testing of foreign teachers in Korea is a form of discrimination.
In reaction, the Ministry of Justice admitted that it was aware of the ruling through media reports.
"We have not received an official ruling through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yet. We will make a decision on how to respond to the ruling after we receive it," a ministry official at the immigration control bureau said.
Meanwhile, calls for the abolition of the practice are increasing.
"This is racial discrimination," an English teacher from Northern Ireland, who refused to be named, said. "Why should only white, American and European people be subject to this? There is an insinuation here that white people are more promiscuous, and more inclined to take drugs than Korean people.
"If you want to protect young students, then you test everybody for drugs and HIV. Not just foreigners."
Another English teacher who works in Seoul agreed, saying, "It would be fine if the test is required for both Korean and English teachers.
"A lot of people feel it's an invasion of privacy and it perpetuates the stereotype of foreigners being ‘loose,'" she noted.
Korea has a history of restricting global trends to abolish discrimination.
It joined the international convention on CERD in 1978.
In its ruling, the U.N. committee called Korea's HIV testing policy an act of racism.
"The mandatory testing policy limited to foreign English teachers, who are not ethnically Korean, does not appear to be justified on public health grounds or any other grounds, and is a breach of the right to work without distinction of race, color, national or ethnic origin," it said.
The committee called on the Korean government to grant adequate compensation for the mental and material damages she suffered. It also urged the government to abolish the law that is "discriminatory and an affront to her dignity."
HIV and drug tests were introduced in 2007 for E-2 (foreign language instructor), E-6 (artistic performer) and E-9 (non-professional employment) visa holders.
The government later scrapped the requirement for E-6 and E-9 visa holders after facing criticism from international figures and organizations, including U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Yet it still remains for E-2 visa holders.
The committee said the government should "counter any manifestations of xenophobia through stereotyping or stigmatizing of foreigners by public officials, the media and the public at large," and gave the country 90 days to inform the committee of the steps it has taken.
유엔 인종차별철폐위원회는 20일(현지시간) 지난 2009년 한국에서 뉴질랜드 여성을 영어강사로 재고용하는 조건으로 에이즈 검사를 받도록 요구한 것은 인권을 침해한 것이라며 한국 정부가 이 여성에게 정신적 물질적 피해 보상을 하라고 촉구했다.
유엔 인종차별철폐위는 외국인에게만 요구되는 2차 에이즈 검사를 거부해 재고용되지 않은 것은 인종차별이며 인간의 존엄성에 대한 모욕이라며 한국 정부는 한국 사람은 받지 않는 이 검사를 외국인이 받아야 하는 정당한 이유를 제시하지 않았다면서 이같이 밝혔다.
인종차별철폐위는 또 한국의 이 정책을 검토한 결과 공중보건이나 어떤 근거에서도 정당화될 수 없고 인종이나 피부색, 국적 등에 차별을 받지 않고 일할 수 있는 권리를 위배한 것이라면서 한국 정부는 외국인 고용에 대한 규제와 정책을 검토해 인종차별을 하는 법과 관행을 없애라고 요구했다.
인종차별철폐위는 또 공무원이나 언론, 일반 대중이 수치심 유발 등의 형태로 외국인 혐오증을 나타내는 것을 막아야 한다면서 한국정부는 90일 이내에 어떤 조처를 했는지 통보해달라고 말했다. (연합뉴스)