Discrimination National

JR Pub owner sincere, but not professional on apology

Lee Tae-hoon
Written by Lee Tae-hoon

JR Pub owner Jung Jin-chul, above, fulfilled his promise to give a 50% discount on all food and drinks on Thursday night. He, however, could not announce how much money was raised and where he will donate it as he passed out before the charity event ended. He had pledged to give all the proceeds to charities. – E.D.

A pub in Itaewon, Seoul, which caused an uproar over the posting of a racist sign to ban “Africans,” hosted a charity night Thursday as it had planned.

However, Jung Jin-chul, owner of JR Pub, failed to live up to the expectations of those who expected him to greet each one of his customers and say “sorry.”

He did not also dump a bucket of ice on his head, which some believed would have been a fun and symbolic way to make an apology, nor made a speech to explain why customers were getting a 50 percent discount.

Jung even left the bar 10 minutes before the charity event began and returned about an hour later, fuelling suspicions that he was not sincere about his apology.


The previous sign that he had posted to express an apology for his recent racist action was also gone and no advertisement was made to inform the public about the brouhaha.

Waitresses informed customers that they would get a 50 percent discount on drinks and appetizers they would order, but did not explain why the bar was compelled to do so unless they were asked.

“I haven’t been able to sleep at all for the past two days because I couldn’t stop worrying about it as I read tons of text and Kakao messages that I received about the blunder I made,” he said in an interview with The Korea Observer.

“I am sorry but I am not good at putting up a show to draw attention.”

JR Pub in ItaewonEven though the event was not properly organized, it was apparent that Jung was apologetic and regrets his decision to put the sign that reads, “We apologize But, Due to Ebola Virus we are not accepting Africans at the moment. – JR Pub.”

Lee Jae-jin, a spokesman at the National Human Rights Commission, said that the commission has launched an investigation into JR Pub’s racial discrimination and it will decide whether or not it violated the rights of black customers.

However, she said, even though the bar is found to have discriminated people based on race, it will be unlikely that JR Pub will receive any punishment.

Lee claimed that the commission can only make recommendations to relevant bodies so that they regulate or punish human rights violators in accordance of the law

“We don’t have the authority to punish. We only make recommendations,” she said. “And it’s much more difficult to impose a penalty against private entities.”

Kim Gwang-ho, a senior official at Gyungnam Migration Community Center, also claimed that JR Pub will not face any penalty.

“There is no law in Korea that prohibits business owners to discriminate people based on race,” he said.

54707_36135_2746Kim helped Goo Soo-jin, a naturalized Korean citizen from Uzbekistan, file a complaint with the human rights commission for being denied entry to a public bath house in Busan in 2011.

“The commission ruled that her rights were violated but no penalty was handed down to the bath house,” he said.

“Nevertheless, the owner, like the most of Koreans, was just ignorant about racism. In fact, the owner was a very nice person. That’s why Korea needs to introduce an anti-discrimination law that allows us to punish racists and educate the public what racism is.”

In 2008, the rights commission ruled that Helios Pub in Itaewon, Seoul denied entry to the bar, saying Africans are not allowed. The commission recommended the pub owner to educate its staff so that it wouldn’t recur without imposing any punishment.

Senior officials at Yongsan Police Station also admitted that police cannot take any action against JR Pub as it did not violate the law.

About the author

Lee Tae-hoon

Lee Tae-hoon

Lee Tae-hoon is publisher at The Korea Observer. He previously worked for the Korea Times and Arirang TV. You can reach him at lee@koreaobserver.com.

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