The Korea Times 칼럼

Law vs. Anger (2010년 7월 17일)

divicom 2010. 7. 17. 09:26

When I came across the headline ``New drug test plan angers native English teachers" in the Tuesday (July 13) edition of this paper, I had to delve into the article. Why does the government plan to add a new drug test for English teachers? Do English teachers commit drug related crimes in increasing numbers?

I was struck particularly by what Mike Long of Daegu National University of Education said in the article: ``The level of media coverage given to alleged drug crimes and acts of violence by native speaker English teachers seems to be completely disproportionate. We are seldom given reliable statistics concerning actual convictions, and even when these are given, it is clear to see that these apply to a tiny minority of those working as English teachers in this country."

So, I decided to look for related statistics and the process posed quite a challenge. I went through news archives and head-aching tables on the websites of government offices concerned and learned that crimes committed by foreigners have increased more than three times during the past six years. The number of foreigners apprehended by Korean police for murder, robbery, rape, assault and other violence increased from 6,144 in 2003 to 23,344 last year, according to a newspaper report. The increase was most conspicuous for drug-related crimes.

Some statistics were available on the website of the Supreme Prosecution Service (SPS), yet finding the figures I wanted was another issue. I barely managed to get the fact that the number of foreigners involved in drug-related crimes rose by more than ten times from 86 in 2003 to 890 last year. During the first five months of this year, 266 foreigners were arrested for smuggling in, dealing in, using, and/or in possession of drugs.

I wanted to know how many of the drug criminals had E-2 visas, but was unable to find that out. I may have obtained the answer if had I tried harder, but after hours of talking to the officials of the Justice Ministry on the phone, I was too exhausted and displeased to continue. I was left with bits of insignificant information: E-2 visas are given not only to English language teacher hopefuls but also to all those who aspire to teach foreign languages in Korea; There are some 23,600 E-2 visa holders in Korea and 12,415 are from the United States, followed by 4,860 from Canada, 2,167 from Britain, and 1,340 from South Africa, among others.

An official at the ministry's Korea Immigration Service (KIS) said that the government couldn't be too keen on matters related to E-2 visa, as the visa holders directly contact and affect Korean children and youths. once the applicants get the visas through the strengthened procedures, he said, they would have a less administrative burden than in the past. For instance, they won't have to submit additional documents to the KIS when they move from one institution to another in the nation, he said.

While trying to understand the ministry's efforts to take precautions to protect the nation's youths, I sympathize with the frustration of foreigners who have to go through additional tests because of ``a tiny minority" of drug users. In the KT article that motivated me to write this piece, a 26-year-old Canadian teacher says that the use of ``cannabinoids," the drug which the government has newly added for test, is not a criminal offense in many countries. ``To penalize a citizen from another country based on Korean standards of conduct smacks of cultural elitism," the teacher says.

A nation's socio-cultural tolerance usually reflects its strength and self-confidence. If the use of a certain drug doesn't constitute a crime in a country, it means the country can cope with problems resulting from it. Unfortunately, Korea is least capable of dealing with many drugs, being in a worrisome state already as far as youth security is concerned. Because situations differ from one country to another and the difference can cause discomfort and friction, people often resort to the time-honored adage, "In Rome, do as the Romans do" as the guiding principle.

If the Korean situation had been fully explained to the foreign teachers, would they still be angry about the addition of a drug test? I think not. From my own experience with the Ministry, KIS and SPS, I think the anger has more to do with their attitude than with the addition itself. Today is Constitution Day. I hope the ministry officials will realize that they have no reason to be heavy-handed, being ``public servants" enforcing the law, the minimum system of rules to maintain society.


위에 쓰인 대로 화요일 자 코리아타임스에서, 정부가 E-2 비자를 신청하는 사람들에게 마약류 검사 하나를 추가하여 원어민 영어 강사들이 화를 내고 있다는 기사를 보았습니다. 궁금했습니다. 약물 검사는 왜 추가했을까? 원어민 영어 강사들이 마약 관련 범죄를 저지르는 사례가 늘고 있는 걸까? 기사에서 대구대학교의 마이크 롱 씨가, 정부가 통계도 없이 외국인 강사들을 범죄인들로 몰아세운다고 얘기한 것을 보니, 통계를 좀 찾아봐야겠다는 생각이 들었습니다.


그렇게 해서 몇 시간 동안 법무부, 대검찰청 등 관련 부처 공무원들과 전화 통화를 했는데, 소위 '공복(public servant)'이라는 분들의 태도가 더위를 가중시켰습니다. 대검찰청 공무원은 사무적이긴 해도 합리적이었는데, 법무부 공무원 한 사람의 말은 한국어인데도 알아들을 수가 없었습니다. 왜 이런 걸 묻느냐는 투로 누구냐고 하기에 코리아타임스에 칼럼을 쓴다고 했더니, 묻는 말엔 대답을 하지 않고 요리조리 말을 돌려댔습니다. 참고 참다가, 아는데 답을 못하는 거냐, 모르는 거냐 하고 물었더니 결국은 모른다고 말했습니다. 요즘 민원 공무원들 중엔 친절한 분들이 많은데, 법무부 직원들은 스스로 '민원' 공무원이 아니라고 생각하나 봅니다. 하지만 공무원은 기본적으로 다 '민원' 공무원입니다. 국민이 궁금한 것을 물을 때 답변할 수 있어야 하고, 답변할 수 없을 때는 미안해 해야 합니다. 친절은 최소한입니다.


결과적으로 몇 가지 정보와 통계를 구하긴 했지만, 원어민 외국어 강사들이 저지르는 마약 관련 범죄가 늘고 있는가 하는 질문에 대한 답은 구하지 못했습니다. 좀 더 시간을 투자해서 공무원들과의 접촉을 시도했다면 찾을 수 있었겠지만, 몇 시간의 통화에 지치고 불쾌해져서 포기하고 말았습니다. 정부가 어떤 법과 규칙을 시행할 때는 반드시 이유가 있을 겁니다. 그 이유는 그 법과 규칙의 직접적 대상이 되는 사람들도 납득할 만큼 합리적이어야 하고, 그들에게 설명해주어야 합니다. 만일 법무부가 이번 마약류 검사 추가 조치의 배경을 원어민 강사들에게 통계를 곁들여 설명했다면, 그들이 지금처럼 화를 내지 않았을지도 모릅니다. 오늘은 제헌절입니다. 누구보다 법무부 공무원들이 헌법은 무엇이며 법은 무엇인지, 법을 바르게 집행한다는 건 무엇인지, 생각해보았으면 좋겠습니다. 부디!