The Haeundae District Office is under fire for their plan to divide Busan’s Haeundae beach into zones based on race this year.
The office said that there will be a “China Zone,” a “Kid Zone,” and a 50-meter section of beach without parasols for foreigners.
Presumably, the rest of the vast beach will be for Koreans.
Some foreigners are comparing this segregation to a modern “apartheid” and representing mentalities of the 1950s.
“I don’t think anyone is trying to be intentionally racist. But the mentally is pretty backwards. People just aren’t thinking,” one foreigner writes in response to this information.
Another asks whether foreigners will be allowed to use the same toilets as Koreans.
However, Sohn Jeong-sik, an official at Haeundae District Office, said it was wrong to suggest there will be a foreigner-only-zone in Haeundae Beach this year.
“We will have a foreigner-friendly zone, which we have named, 외국인 특화존 or foreigner-specialized area,” Sohn said.
“We have decided to do the foreigner-friendly zone because the vast majority of the beach area had been occupied by beach parasols, which Koreans like. We wanted to create an area where people who do not want to relax under beach parasols can do what they like.”
In the foreigner-friendly zone, they plan to erect beach soccer goal posts, a beach volleyball court and an empty area without a beach parasol where people can suntan.
“Of course, Koreans will be able to use the area as well. There will be no restriction or boundary that blocks Koreans from entering the area.”
Sohn said that the main purpose of having an exclusive zone for “kids” is safety.
“We could secure both the kid zone and foreigner-friendly zone because Haeundae’s shore width has been expanded from 50 meters to 90 meters through reconstruction work,” he said.
The office named one section as the China Zone to display artwork inspired by a Chinese animation and allow people in the zone, presumably Chinese tourists, to try Korean cosmetic products.
One expat wrote on the Busan Haps magazine Facebook page that this is not the first time this department has unintentionally created unrest by the way they worded areas designed for foreigners.
“I recall a similar-feeling situation for the fireworks, when they had that “foreigner zone” or something, and the wording in the newsletter made it also sound like they were just trying to shove anyone not Korean in a space away from the Koreans. That was again apparently not the case, it just sounded a lot like it.”
Another expat said this was another demonstration of the Korean governments lack of foresight.
“if Korean government officials want to promote Korea as “the hub of Asia” and as a culturally developed nation, then they need to learn how to appropriately deal with foreigners and tourists. Like others said, they had a good idea but they didn’t even bother to think of how it could easily be perceived. It’s not “political correctness” to try to avoid cultural insensitivity.”
While some expats are impartial, one expat said the “foreigner zone” was at this beach last year too and they enjoyed it.
“Uncrowded, nice sand, close to the bars and GS, and without any dumb umbrellas! I definitely am not cool with it being next to the kid zone. Sounds like a lot of noise pollution.”
In 2012 Police at Haeundae sent 1,600 letters to companies that employ migrant workers in the region, requesting they stagger vacation periods for their workers in order to reduce nuisance behaviour, cultural misunderstandings, and crime on the beach.