Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Korea doesn't want to share its citizens' criminal backgrounds with the U.S.?

So, let me get this straight, foreigners in Korea are forced to produce a criminal background check in order to get an E-2 visa, but South Korea is having qualms about complying with the United States' same request as part of a potential visa waiver program?
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Monday that consultations on South Korea joining the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) with the United States were on schedule with the goal of concluding them by the year-end.

Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young denied a newspaper report that the VWP for South Koreans would likely be delayed due to differences between the two countries over ways of sharing the criminal records of tourists.

. . .
Some South Korean lawyers claim that sharing the criminal records of citizens is in violation of basic human rights, while Washington insists it is one of the basic standards to be met by those countries wanting to join the VWP to help protect American nationals and interests from terrorists or criminals who have committed felonies.

HT to ROK Drop on this one. To use South Korea's Ministry of Justice's words:
I just don’t understand why they cannot make some exceptions to accommodate the needs of their own nationals. In Korea, criminal records can be easily obtained online. But they don’t have a centralized system.

Actually, that was arrogantly said in relation to foreign embassies' hesitation to provide criminal histories to comply with new E-2 visa regulations. South Korea implemented those new rules in 2007 without checking first with whether other countries would be willing or able to follow them. South Korea was quite keen on this idea, and immigration put out a release saying in part:
The Korean Government will prevent illegal activities by verifying requirements of native English teacher and tighten their non-immigrant status [...] [and will] eradicate illegal activities of native English teachers who are causing social problems such as ineligible lectures, taking drugs and sex crimes. English teachers, who disturb social order during their staying in Korea such as illegal teaching, taking drugs and sex crimes, will be banned from entering South Korea.[...] [They will] prevent illegal English teaching activities and the taking of drugs and sexual harassment of English teachers, [...] teachers who disrupt the social order by taking drugs, committing sexual harassment and alcohol intoxication.

Perhaps the U.S. should do the same in kind. After all there are roughly 230,000 Koreans staying in the U.S. illegally, and I'll bet they're not raising unicorns and kissing babies.

And for the record I'm not opposed to teachers having to submit criminal background checks, as a country has the right to allow or bar whomever it pleases, and set its visa regulations any way it sees fit. Thus, it's not unreasonable in the least for the United States to ask for passengers' criminal histories. If I understand it correctly, a criminal offense doesn't bar one from entering the country, but it does exclude one from entering visa-free under the VWP. My gut reaction is to say no to a VWP with South Korea, because wasn't it contingent on the KORUS FTA, an agreement squashed with apparent impunity? But, that's not what developed nations do, how grown-ups behave, and my temper is one reason among many why I'm not a diplomat. Hey, maybe the VWP will mean I can stay in South Korea visa-free for longer than 30 days

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