“I will give a 50 percent discount on all drinks and food to those coming to the bar on Thursday night,” the JR Pub owner said Monday. He also noted that all proceeds of the night will go to a charity and those who are in need of help.
“It all happened because of my ignorance. It’s entirely my fault and I’m the one who deserves death,” Jung Jin-chul, owner of JR Pub, said Tuesday as he recalled his racist decision last Saturday.
Jung admitted that he instructed a staff member to put up a pair of signs on Saturday evening that read “We apologize But, Due to Ebola Virus we are not accepting Africans at the moment. –JR Pub.”
“My English writing skills are very poor that I asked one of my female staff members to make the signs over the phone at around 8:30 p.m. Saturday,” he said, noting that the signs, hastily written on A4 size paper by a maker, were already hanging at the bar when he arrived there shortly after giving the instruction.
“I didn’t pay much attention about the signs and had no clue about the implications of posting such discriminatory messages until I began to receive a series of complaints from customers and Kakao messages from my friends.”
The 40-year-old bar owner claimed that the racist signs were pulled down between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., about an hour after they were displayed.
When asked what prompted him to display the racially-charged signs, Jung said he was ignorant about Ebola but wanted to address concerns of customers, who were worried about coming to Itaewon over fears of the Ebola virus.
“What I originally intended to say was ‘Those who have recently travelled or come from Ebola affected areas are advised to act with caution’ but neither my English nor my worker’s English skills were good enough to deliver the message,” he said, adding that he had received Ebola-related complaints from three groups of customers.
“Nevertheless, I was wrong, very wrong. I really feel like sinner.”
Jung said he recently learned, though people can be exposed to Ebola virus from direct physical contact with body fluids, Korea remains a safe country from the disease and it was absolutely wrong for him to discriminate people based on race.
He added that JR Pub was questioned by the National Human Rights Commission in response to a complaint about its discriminatory signs.
Jung, however, refrained from answering any of his past experiences regarding black people or an online comment that claims that the signs had nothing to do with Ebola.
Earlier, an online commentator named John claimed that the signs were “an idiotic attempt at preventing a certain group of Nigerian men from drinking in the bar. Apparently, this group of men were buying only one drink a night and there were complaints that they were ‘hassling’ women.’”
Jung said some of his young female staffers and customers had experienced sexual harassment for a number of times from certain groups of people.
“One group of ill-behaving customers even circled around a 23-year-old waitress and teased her, saying ‘you got nice big tits’,” he said. “She cried and I called the police. But I couldn’t do anything for her. She quit and didn’t press charges against them.”
Jung stressed that he values black people as customers, saying their spending at the bar accounts for about 20 percent of JR Pub’s revenues.
“I’m just a bar owner who has never studied abroad and is ignorant about social issues,” he said. “Yet, I know that black people make up a large part of JR’s Pub’s customer base and I should not have posted such a sign. I feel like a sinner.”
When this reporter visited the bar Monday night, there were only a handful number of Korean customers unaware of the recent controversy. No white person was in the pub.
“We would have had many U.S. servicemen tonight but as you can see, they are not coming to our pub after the incident,” a manager of the pub said.
When asked for a possible legal punishment for JR’s Pub’s discriminatory act, an officer at Itaewon Police Station said they do not intervene with bar or club owners’ decisions as to who are allowed to enter their premises or not.
Korea does not have an anti-discrimination law.
Jung, however, said that he will take the full responsibility for his wrong doing, adding that he will hold a charity event at his pub this Thursday from 9 p.m. till 3 a.m.
He stressed that he will answer any questions in person regarding the blunder he made and apologize to those who were hurt by his reckless deed.
“I will give a 50 percent discount on all drinks and food to those coming to the bar on Thursday night,” he said. He also noted that all proceeds of the night will go to a charity and those who are in need of help.
“This is the least that I can do for what I have done. I screwed up and I’m terribly sorry. I couldn’t properly respond to criticism as I don’t have social media accounts like facebook and I don’t speak good English.”
“I’d appreciate it if you can allow me to have a chance to offer a proper apology so that I can have a sound sleep.”
Jung said he could not sleep well for the last few days.
He posted another sign Sunday night on his bar to express his regrets, which was written with the help of a bilingual friend.
Insiders of JR Pub say, although the pub is technically run in partnership with an expat here, Jung has been chiefly responsible for the operation of it.