So back in October of last year, a Korea Times writer named Kang Shin-who wrote an article about Visa status for foreigners in Korea.
Here's that article.
This was in October of 2008 -- long before the Wagner report was filed with the NHRCK. Among other things, he wrote:
South Korea’s visa policy has been accused of favoring ``gyopo’’ or ethnic Korean English teachers over other foreign nationals, with this favoritism creating loopholes in the system making it easier for those with criminal and drug records to go undetected. However, the government has indicated it has no immediate plan to change visa rules....Where he went to find his "most other foreign English teachers" is never explained, but that was his idea, that was the main thesis of the article. You can read it. Let the record show: this was last October.
He said he has witnessed some English instructors who were once expelled from Korea return to the country with other visas such as an F-2 or F-4, taking advantage of this system.
Under the Korean visa rules, native English speakers seeking E-2 visa are obliged to submit police background checks. However, foreigners who are ethnic Koreans or married to Korean nationals are exempt from the requirements as they are eligible for F-4 and F-2 visas, respectively.
Most other foreign English teachers call it ``discriminative.’’
In February, when Ben Wagner filed his report, somebody in the Korea Times office probably shouted across the press room, "Hey! Anybody here care to write up this story about discrimination against E-2 visas?"
Whether Kang Shin-who thought, "Hey! I already wrote about that before; I'll totally do it again: it's like my strong point" and volunteered, or his editor thought, "Kang wrote about this before; I'll ask him to do it again," once again, Kang was the man covering the Wagner report.
He made a mistake. See, he had a deadline, so he took this idea from his article back in October, and used it again when he wrote up the Wagner report:
In response, many E-2 visa holders have complained that the government should apply the same visa screening rules to foreign English teachers holding other visas. They are urging the government to use the same restrictions on teachers holding E-1 (professorship), F-2 (spouse of a Korean) or F-4 (ethnic Korean) visas.He even pulled a quote from Wagner out of its original context, and put it right after his own idea, to make it sound like Wagner supported his thesis.
``The visa rules for E-2 visa holders should be revised as they clearly discriminate on the basis of national origin,'' said Benjamin Wanger, a professor of Kyung Hee University. He filed the complaint with the human right agency.Well, he's at it again. See, a group of Korean lawyers are filing a petition with the Constitutional Court protesting the discriminatory visa rules. (As for why they're discriminatory, go read up here.) Once again, Kang got tapped for the KT write-up, and once again, Kang has dropped his own total misunderstanding of the Wagner Report, based on a preconception of visa discrimination he'd formed the October before the Wagner Report was filed, into his write-up.
ATEK made it clear that they don't oppose background checks per se.
E-2 visa holders have contended that the government should apply the same visa screening rules to foreign English teachers holding other visas, urging the government to use the same restrictions on teachers holding E-1 (professorship), F-2 (spouse of a Korean) or F-4 (ethnic Korean) visas. They made it clear that they don't oppose background checks as a rule.If you look at the texts side-by-side, I wouldn't be surprised if he simply cut-and-pasted his own article. They're almost word-for-word.
Now, everybody who has a lot invested in this: look at the three texts written by the same Korea Times writer. The guy got it wrong. Really wrong. His previous article contributed to a nasty, nasty rift in the expat community which has just finally started to be repaired on either side, and it would be a real shame if this guy's misunderstanding of Wagner's report caused a re-fracturing where we were so close to getting ourselves back on the same page (take Ben up on this offer, f-series friends! It'd be a really great gesture of solidarity in the face of what's threatening to pull us apart).
I just got off the phone with Ben, and Ben just got off the phone with Kang, and Kang finally gets it, that his sloppy journalism is causing huge misunderstandings and division in the expat community. Ben reports that Kang actually feels awful about it, and is in touch with his editor to get his flub corrected in the online edition. I'm going to write a letter to the editor asking for a retraction, even though I'd previously promised myself never to write to the Korea Times again, after that horrible, horrible two weeks of printing any old junk.
So hey everybody.
1. let's not crucify Kang: journalists writing under deadlines get sloppy, and he didn't realize the effect his carelessness was having on the community, and actually feels bad about it: Ben's been on the phone with him a few times tonight.
2. Let's not let this guy's gaffe screw up the positive movement toward a truce and a clearer understanding of each other that had been slowly coming around, thanks to gestures of openness and good faith on both sides.
On the bright side: Korean lawyers are coming to their own constitutional court, calling their own laws discriminatory, and calling out the use of prejudice in the process of lawmaking:
Chang Suh-yeon, an attorney with the Korean Public Interest Lawyers Group ``Gong-Gam,'' told The Korea Times Tuesday that her group will take the issue to the court this week or next.For anybody who's invested in living in Korea for a long time, and who has gotten tired of defending ourselves from unfounded, lazy stereotyping and scapegoating, an open public discussion about media scapegoating, led by Koreans talking to Koreans on our behalf, is about as good news as I can imagine.
``The visa law violated the Constitution that guarantees a basic right to freedom, equal treatment, the pursuit of happiness and the protection of privacy,'' Chang said.
``The visa law is based on vague prejudice and bias that foreign English teachers have disordered sex lives and use drugs,'' she added.
I'm hitting publish now, and once I've written up the call for a formal retraction and sent it to The Korea Times, I'll publish it here, too. Screenshot of the offending article, with the paragraph under question highlighted (10:30pm).
(also covered at Brian in JND)
Update: Wow! That was a really fast correction. Here is a screenshot of the corrected article online (11:46pm), with a more accurate description of the nature of the complaint. The paragraph was removed, and the first sentence was also changed to more accurately reflect the content of Wagner's report, and the nature of the Korean lawyers' petition.
As the error has been corrected, a call for a retraction and a nasty letter to the editor is no longer necessary...so I won't write one. Thanks, Kang Shin-who, and The Korea Times editor, for doing what's necessary to get it right this time.
Once again, readers: let's make sure that if the expat community disagrees about stuff, it's only once we all have our facts straight.
Update: this article explains things the way I've heard Ben Wagner explain them.