Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A tale of two ministries

Read this. Then get pissed. Then go read so-and-so's blog rant about how f'ed-up xenophobic this shows Korea is.

Then take a closer look at the article and realize that it's most likely two different ministries and two different independent policies at work here. No, they're not out to get you.

(And while we're at it, we're now at the point where it's time to stop treating HIV testing like a human rights issue and recognize it for the public health issue that it is. Everyone should be tested — E2s, F4s, F5s, E6s, and ROK nationals — period. Especially in a country like South Korea where HIV treatment is guaranteed, even mandatory. But that's a post for another time.)

There are some good discussions on this at The Marmot's Hole and Brian's.


  1. Hell, they quote two different ministries in the article (Health, and MEST), not even bringing the Ministry of Justice into it.

  2. No Shibo, the whole country is backwards in almost every aspect. Ministries, political parties, affiliations have absolutely ZERO to do with this amazing phenomena. I would lean towards a genetic disposition or cultural abomination as the true reason for decisions such as these.

    I know you have deep love for the people of the Han, but decisions like these are a dime a dozen in this nation and it's downright scary.

  3. P.S. - Why get pissed? If one has lived in S. Korea long enough, decisions of this nature are par for the course. The norm. Like a nuclear time mechanism in accuracy.

  4. Zilchy, when I read the first paragraph of your first comment, I assumed you were being satirical, but now I'm not so sure.

    I have no unconditional love for anything in Korea, and my thousands of posts include many pointed criticisms (case in point here, the HIV testing should be expanded, not ended).

    But I'm pretty sure, given my professional and personal background, that I understand what's going on in Korea a lot better than many of the K-blog commentariat, and in this case it is blatantly obvious that the policy discrepancy is a bureaucratic issue (the Ministry of Health proposes policy for E6s and E9s while the Ministry of Education proposes policy for E2s and E1s and the Ministry of Justice must give its stamp — which it hasn't yet — on both when it comes to immigration issues), coupled with the globalism-enforced PC standard away from testing (because it's a "human rights issue").

    That's a much more accurate explanation than the xenophobic paradigm of "they're out to get us." Your paradigm falls flat when you look at how much things have improved for E2-eligible people over time. For starters, there is the expansion of F-series visas for those E-series visa holders who marry Korean nationals. Then there's the expansion of universal health care to include them (something I helped work for expanding back in the 1990s, you can thank me later). The decrease in visa-processing time from two months to two weeks through the visa issuance voucher system, as well as expanding the number of E2 visas who could hold second jobs to include hagwon and secondary school teachers, not just university teachers.

    Sorry, but the "Koreans are all screwed up and can't coordinate anything" and the "xenophobic Koreans are out to get us English teachers" paradigms just simply don't hold up.

    But they do generate some righteous hate, don't they?

  5. A bit late on this reply. I forgot that I weighed in on this one.

    My statements were not a reflection of "They're out to get us" or "xenophobia". They simply reflected what I see as the nature of the Korean decision making phenomena and the logic that applies, irrespective of "motive". In my personal view, it's not just on the governmental level, but pervasive throughout the society, all the way down to the milk man. You can label it " a cultural reality" or "that's just the way it is".

    I'm not questioning your knowledge of Korea and the issues at hand. I realize that you have spent some serious time studying Korea in all it's glory, but this example is reflective of many others which leaves me in awe as to how the Korean mindset works.

    For a westerner to have chosen to study a subject such as Korea or East Asia to an extensive degree, shows a substancial affinity towards that subject. This is a beautiful thing, but it also leads to an underlying bias, which I view as a natural outcome. I'm not suggesting your are not balanced in your attacks, but you seem to lean towards the EAST.

    So NO, my comments were not satirical, but they were not malicious either. Sometimes, I find myself shaking my head at things I experience in this country.

  6. Zilchy wrote:
    For a westerner to have chosen to study a subject such as Korea or East Asia to an extensive degree, shows a substancial affinity towards that subject. This is a beautiful thing, but it also leads to an underlying bias, which I view as a natural outcome. I'm not suggesting your are not balanced in your attacks, but you seem to lean towards the EAST.

    Respectfully, Zilchy, you have completely missed the mark as to my motivation for being in Korea in the first place, my personal and professional reasons for returning to and remaining in Seoul, my motivation for pursuing "Korean Studies" in the first place, any "affinity" I have toward the subject, as well as any bias. In short, I am not the person you seem to be depicting.

    I originally went to Korea because of family and I returned in order to boost my Korean language skills, a period that was supposed to be about a year but turned into much longer. I got two jobs I immensely enjoyed and carved out more and more responsibilities for myself and eventually started a company. At some point I realized that, academically, I needed to have something to show for being in Seoul as long as I had been, so I decided to pursue a master's in Korean Studies, which I felt would be somewhat easy to do full time since I already was familiar with much of what was taught. I also thought it would be a good fit for specializing in public health studies later on, while giving me a job prospects as Asian Studies is a growing field.

    As a long-time resident of Seoul and South Korea, I have a keen interest in knowing what's going on around me, politically, socially, and economically, just as I do for Orange County, California, Honolulu, Hawaii, the US in general, and even neighboring countries like Japan.

    That does not automatically translate into any special affinity. There are things I enjoy immensely about Seoul and Korea in general, but there are also things I do not like, as well as a few things I loathe.

    In fact, I discuss them frequently, and I have had many a heated discussion with various SoKos about some of these issues, often taking the opportunity to inform some less informed people about the circumstances faced by foreign nationals living in South Korea, or the actual intent of US policy (or Japanese policy), etc.

  7. [continued]

    But at the same time, some people in the English-teaching community or the larger "expat" community latch on to memes that are wrong-headed, oversimplistic, defeatist, and/or harmful to themselves.

    One of those is the knee-jerk "they're out to get us" paradigm and the concomitant notion that most anything bad that happens to you happens to you because you're a foreigner. The variations of "Korea is the most racist country ever" coming from people who have no clue what it's like in other countries or for minorities or immigrants in their home country is part of this, along with the "we would never do this back home" chestnut.

    Case in point, Metropolitician going off about foreigners not being able to get an iPhone — to the point that he was going to take this "racist as a mofo" policy up with Steve Jobs himself — while completely unaware that AT&T (the sole provider of the iPhone) has a similar policy for people in the US who lack a Social Security number (which is a lot of foreigners on temporary status).

    Indeed, this at hand is one of those. The discrepancy is so obviously the result of inherently inconsistent bureaucratic policy that happens everywhere when policy and/or jurisdiction over some thing or some group (in this case, different types of visas) is divided among different bureaucratic entities, but the knee-jerk reaction among many in the English-teaching blogosphere is to jump to the idea that this is "racist" (Ben Wagner's words) and their group is being singled out.

    In fact, this news came about not because something happened to E2 visa holders, but because nothing happened (yet) with E2 visa holders. It's news because a different agency proposed ending HIV testing for a different group. And so that makes the E2 visa holders' group discriminatory?

    I wonder how long you've lived in South Korea, Zilchy? I wonder if you recall the bad old days when the lives of foreign nationals were far, far more restricted. I wonder if you realize the very real effort government agencies have exerted to improve things. Not make them perfect, of course, but then again, I wonder if you've had a look at things for foreign nationals in your home country as well? I'm surrounded by them here in Hawaii, and financially, legally, and sometimes even socially, it's no picnic.

  8. While I'm here, Me stating:

    "For a westerner to have chosen to study a subject such as Korea or East Asia to an extensive degree, shows a substancial affinity towards that subject. This is a beautiful thing, but it also leads to an underlying bias, which I view as a natural outcome. I'm not suggesting your are not balanced in your attacks, but you seem to lean towards the EAST.

    This was actually a compliment and you "jumped to guns". Why, I have no idea?

    Summation: How many non-Asian, non-Korean individuals from the western world choose to acquire a masters in Korean History, Lecture on Korean Studies, own property in Seoul and have lived on and off in S. Korea, since a fairly young age. My guess is this background is statistically insignificant with respect to the west as a whole.

    My point was this background is fairly substancial, which might lead one to think that you have a more legitimate background of information to work with. It might also lead one to believe you could be biased, as you have a heavy background/influence with respect to Korea.

    I know you are working on a degree in public health. Have you considered anger management therapy? Valium?

    P.S. The last statement was sarcasm.

  9. This was actually a compliment and you "jumped to guns".

    Zilchy, you confused a long answer with an angry or emotional answer. It was neither. Also, you again made inaccurate assumptions about my family background and original purpose for being in Korea. My situation is not as rare as you would think.

  10. And that's really all I care for you or me getting into about my personal background. I'm in a field where, unfortunately, personal background can only be used against you, no matter what it is, and I don't want to make mine an issue.

  11. I don't want to make it an issue either as it's just a simple discussion. I feel no need or want to delve into your personal life etc. I have no idea where you are coming from (mindset), in this discussion, but I can't comprehend it.

    But again - Have you considered anger management therapy? Valium?

    Not sure if this last statement is sarcasm.


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