[Letter to the editor]Foreigners treated unfairly hereWhen I first arrived in Korea in 2000 to work, teachers were subject to strict checks and a verification of their qualifications by the immigration office. In order to receive a one-year teaching visa, original diplomas plus original academic transcripts sent in a sealed envelope directly from the graduating university had to be submitted to the immigration office. This may have been reasonable as an initial requirement, but any subsequent change of employment meant that exactly the same documents had to be supplied each time. The diploma was returned but the transcripts remained filed somewhere in the labyrinth of the immigration office, their existence apparently not enough, however, to ensure that the university one graduated from had not mysteriously changed from one year to the next or that individuals were still bona-fide graduates.
Foreigners seem to be regarded with suspicion here ― perhaps because some had the audacity to work in a respected position (teaching) without appropriate qualifications or lied about their academic achievements. Fortunately, miscreants are occasionally rounded up by vigilant authorities and cast out. It matters little that the schools and companies that employed them were complicit in their illegal hiring.
Now with the fake diploma scandal in full swing, this time involving Korean citizens, it seems Korean authorities should have been paying as much attention to their own people as they have been to the foreigners in their midst. Perhaps the same over-regulation in verifying foreigners’ credentials should have been applied to Korean citizens as well.
Recently, however, another example of blatant discrimination was enacted with foreigners undeservedly cursed ― the punitive restriction on being able to maintain bank accounts here and withdraw their own money while overseas.
Again, the government singles out foreigners, regulates them and treats them all as potential criminals, denying them the same rights that their own citizens expect as a matter of course.
How long will it take before Korea recognizes that perhaps there is no difference between the proclivities for malfeasance by foreigners, whatever their origin, and Koreans, whatever their social status ― and enacts non-discriminatory legislation to reflect this?
Kevin Were, Itaewon, Seoul
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