[FOUNTAIN]U.S. visa law is insultingThe origin of the word “visa” comes from vise, Latin for “to confirm” or “to certify.” A visa holder is granted the right to apply for entry to the country that issued the visa. A similar system existed in the Joseon period here; it was called seogye. A seogye would act as a credential to indicate that the foreigner was friendly to the country as well as a visa.
During World War I the visa system in the modern sense became widely used. Countries introduced the system to check espionage and to prevent the inflow of citizens from enemy states. But even during peacetime, nations set up complicated visa rules against third-world nations and unfriendly countries, to protect labor markets and for security reasons.
Koreans do not require a visa to enter most European and Southeast Asian countries. Among the countries Koreans consider friends, the United States and Japan are the exceptions that require visas from Koreans. While a Korean citizen needs a visa to enter Russia and China, Koreans do not feel these two countries to be close friends as the United States and Japan are.
Regardless of the purpose of the visit, espionage or illegal business activity would be punished by law. But between nations that claim to be allies, operating a visa system for bureaucratic reasons is insulting.
From the beginning of 2004, all Koreans who enter the United States are required to be fingerprinted at the airport. Most Europeans and the citizens of countries that have no-visa agreements with the United States are exempt from the fingerprinting. As an ally of the United States, Korea has sent forces to Iraq to help the American-led war, and has practically decided to send an additional 3,000 soldiers. Apart from Britain, Korea would contribute the most troops to Iraq for the United States.
Many Koreans find it hard to understand why the United States requires entry visas for Koreans when it does not require visas from other friends. While Washington justifies the system by saying too many Korean applicants are not qualified for visas, some suspect that the United States wants the revenue from visa issuance. For the future of the alliance, the current visa system is undesirable. Japan recently proposed to let Korean students enter without visas. The United States should change its rules to assuage our pride.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.