South Korea Urged to End Mandatory HIV Tests for Foreign Workers
A group representing HIV carriers, a migrants' trade union and three other rights groups said in their petition that the policy breaches the rights of migrant workers, according to the National Human Rights Commission which received the document.
Foreign applicants must prove they do not have HIV to qualify for work in the entertainment sector or low-skilled industries in South Korea. But local workers are not required to do so, Amnesty International says.
South Korea also requires HIV testing of would-be language teachers from overseas.
The Ministry of Labour obliges all low-skilled work applicants to submit physical examination results including HIV testing in their countries of origin.
Upon arrival in South Korea, they are tested a second time for HIV and if positive are subject to deportation, Amnesty said in a report published in October.
Such practices are "in breach of the rights to human worth and dignity and rights to work" the five groups said in the petition filed to coincide with World AIDS Day.
They said discrimination against foreigners on grounds of nationality, social status or illness was in breach of the constitution.
"According to South Korea's AIDS prevention law, a person's consent is required before testing for HIV. But foreign workers are made to receive health checks without being informed that they include a HIV test," Youn Gabriel, the head of Nanuri+, an HIV carriers' group, said.
"Even foreigners who have received work permits are deported from the country if they test positive for HIV," Youn was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.
More than 600 foreigners have been forced to leave since the late 1980s, he said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has urged South Korea to remove emigration and immigration controls on foreigners with HIV, noting it is one of 12 countries in the world with such restrictions.