Saturday, July 08, 2017

well, that's a relief

Matt Van Volkenburg, who blogs at Gusts of Popular Feeling, has a new post out noting that, after ten years, the South Korean Justice Ministry has decided to drop the HIV-testing requirement for foreign English teachers. It was a stupid requirement when it was put into place, and a perfect example of governmental reaction to a "gust of popular feeling"—in this case, a gust of anti-foreigner resentment, which billows into the public sphere more often than we expats would like. But such gusts of xenophobia are part of South Korea's societal immune system, so maybe, from the Korean perspective, they serve a salutary function by keeping foreigners from feeling too welcome or too cozy, while also keeping them on notice that they are, at best, a tolerated presence and not really a welcomed minority that adds to the rich diversity of the peninsula. Diversity: that's how Amurricans think, not Koreans.

The HIV-test requirement never really affected me: by 2005, I had shifted from being a mere hagweon instructor to being a university professor, moving me from the title of gangsa (that's gang-sa, instructor, not "gangsta") to gyosu (i.e., professor). Not that my respectability went up any, but the type of paperwork I had to fill out to get a professor's position was different from the rigamarole that people applying for hagweon positions must go through. Also, when applying for uni work, I never had to submit FBI background-check paperwork, although for my Daegu Catholic job, I did have to go through a domestic background check (which failed to note my long history of pimping and drug-running, thank God). All the same, even though I personally was never under the HIV-testing microscope, I felt the burden of the ROK government's attempt to breathe down our necks a little more warmly and moistly, and I'm glad to hear that Sauron's eye has shifted away, even if only slightly.

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