When Governments Are Quarrelling…

When governments are quarreling,
The little folk get caught between:
They say, “But wait! There is a way!”
But none by bureaucrats is seen.

“Fill this form out in triplicate,
But no, not with that sort of pen.
And this one was due yesterday,
So now, you must submit again.”

Submit, submit, papers and soul,
Upon the desk the papers pile,
And standing in the queue, souls wait,
Submitting to the foul and vile.

Like lice, they invade everywhere,
And cling, and suck the living blood
From institutions. We need them? Why?
What official added to the common good?

No, they always find a way to bruise
Each day into a drudgery,
It’s little wonder normal folk
Have not yet turned to thuggery.

Like paupers, they shall ever be
among us, seated row on row,
those bureaucrats, calling out, “Who’s next?”
And on… and on… and on we go.


Yeah, tongue in cheek. I don’t mean the following as a rant, which is why I started off with a silly little bit of doggerel of my own hasty devising.

I’m now making preparations for my new job. If you’re a regular reader, you might have noticed I haven’t ranted about having applied for jobs around Seoul. I’ll explain that when the ink is dry, but for now, I thought I’d mention that I talked to the Canadian Consular Service in Seoul — or was it the Embassy? Whatever. Anyway, the information I’d been given just a few weeks ago about work visas was true at the time, but had become void and null sometime since, so it was a lucky thing I called.

There’s a dispute going on between the Canadian government — specifically the RCMP — and the Korean Ministry of Justice. The long and the short of it is this: getting a Vulnerable Sectors Search (or VSS) is really complicated and involved, and only the RCMP (actually, only a few people working at the RCMP) can authorize it. It takes longer, which makes sense since as far as I can tell is the really careful check that shows you have no record of any sex crimes.

The catch is, it’s supposed to be issued only to employers within Canada. It’s not deemed for international use by the RCMP, in other words. So it’s possible to request that while you’re in Canada, or applying for a job within Canada, but the RCMP says you shouldn’t be getting one for jobs outside Canada. I don’t know if they’ll do the VSS anyway, or refuse.

Now, guess what the Korean Ministry of Justice decided they would go ahead and require sometime earlier this year?

That’s right, a VSS. Which makes sense, on some level, since many of those E-2 visa holders are working with kids, right? I mean, I would want people teaching my kids to pass muster on such a background check, too.

(Though, I would also be insisting that all teachers — local and foreign alike — be subject to the same strictures. I don’t know if that’s done, but it should be. Seriously! Not because it’s “unfair” to check foreigners only: hell, most countries check the criminal records of immigrants. It’s because if the concern for the well-being of children is truly in earnest, then the standards for all teachers will be higher.)

Unlike some people, I’m not against having standards for teachers, and for the visa issuance of teachers. As one guy I know commented about his experience running a language center at another university, “I’ve never been so shocked [by the depravity of people] in all my life. And I’ve lived through a war…” The freaks, the drunks, the stalkers, the weirdoes (whom I discuss more here): I doubt many of them would be filtered out by the need for a criminal record check, but at least a few would be.

The only people who could fail to see that this is a good thing are those who are either stuck in terminal bitter expat rant mode, or the freaks, drunks, stalkers, and weirdoes themselves. The thing is, though, it’s only good if it’s actually systematic enough to work — and if it isn’t discriminatory. And that’s where the problem comes in: teachers in general aren’t subject to these kinds of stringent assessments, and demanding us to take HIV tests and drug tests is not just insulting, it’s actually discriminatory. I may not have HIV, I may not use illegal drugs, but I am still offended by it.

And then there’s the issue of functionality: if you look around on certain websites that discuss this sort of thing, you’ll see that every MoJ office and consular office abroad seems to be handling it differently. The Korean Consulates in Canada are requiring the VSS, the ones here supposedly aren’t, or weren’t until recently, though when we called the one in Incheon, they were explicit about my needing a VSS for an E-2 visa. Some are refusing to accept online background checks, while others aren’t. In other words, nobody seems to know exactly what’s going on, or how things need to be done, so it’s all in a chaotic transitional mess.

The woman I talked to at the Canadian Consulate said basically that come March, everyone starting then will have a month’s grace to get a VSS and everything. She said one might have to return to one’s home country to do it. She said the Korean government is “thinking about” accepting background checks sans VSS, and one of the things the Canadian government has suggested is that instead, they might consider accepting checks only from the RCMP (and not local stations, etc).

Which leaves me pretty confused as to what I need to be requesting. The nice thing is that I may be able to get an E-1 visa instead, which would require a Criminal Record Check but wouldn’t require the slower, more time-consuming VSS check. That’d be nice. Assuming they’re not requiring RCMP-issued checks only by then. Maybe I’ll just request an RCMP VSS-included search and a regular one through a regular police station and see what happens.

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