When asked about the paradox of putting up a Trusted Store logo, which was issued in October last year by the Itaewon Tourism Association and Seoul Tourism Association (STA), the bar owner said he is willing to take it down as it doesn’t help his business much.
In a series of interviews with The Korea Observer this week, Jang maintained that he cannot see why anyone should take issue with his decision to ban foreign customers since it is his business and there is no such thing as discrimination law in Korea.
“We don’t accept foreigners as we cannot provide satisfactory service to them,” the owner of Itaewon Pojangmacha said.
“We don’t have staff who can speak English and all of our dishes are very spicy and expensive. I don’t want foreigners to be disappointed with our service.”
Pojangmacha refers to a small tented restaurant on wheels or street stalls that sell soju and street foods. His bar is not a tented one and is located on the third floor of a large building.
Jang, 48, claimed that he has no choice but to refuse male foreigners to maintain his business because they often order drinks without buying any dishes and demand to sit at larger tables, especially the ones closer to female customers.
Jang said that customers should respect his decision as he has a lot more to lose than gain by having foreign customers in his bar. In Jang’s opinion foreigners tend to be loud, spend less, and hit on female customers.
“Even if a complaint is filed against me with the Human Rights Commission, I will repeat what I have just said,” he said.
“I have to prevent customers from hitting on female customers. When foreigners say ‘fuck you,’ our staff members get emotionally hurt and customers, especially women, feel uncomfortable.“
Jang added that he doesn’t welcome foreign customers as some of them have the attitude they are superior to Koreans and refuse to speak Korean when he tries to explain the bar’s rules .
He also noted he would like to avoid customers who would drop by to his bar after visiting brothels at “Hooker Hill,” which is located next to the bar.
“Koreans who seek prostitution are unlikely to come here as they are not welcome on Hooker Hill,” Jang said.
“We don’t want to have customers who can potentially cause big trouble here.”
He stressed that he has no personal feelings against foreigners and is more than willing to have foreigners when they come with a Korean who can properly explain the rules of the bar.
“My wife is a foreigner and I have nothing against foreigners,” he said, noting that he was surprised to find out people suddenly began to pay attention to the Only Korean Bar sign that has always been on the main door of the restaurant.
“If I had money, I would really like to hire bouncers.”
Jang underlined that he started his business in Itaewon simply because his foreign wife wanted to live in the foreigner-friendly town and allow their children to attend school there.
Lee Sang-jun, an official at the STA, offered an apology over the selection of Itaewon Pojangmacha as a trusted store, adding that his organ
ization will launch an investigation into the matter.
An official at the Itaewon Special Tourism Zone Association noted that it was inappropriate to have Jang’s bar as a member since the goal of the association is attracting more foreigners to Itaewon, rather than drive them away.
Jang said he is ignorant about discrimination issues but is willing to listen to suggestions, including taking down the Trusted Store logo and even changing the Korean-Only sign.
He may also accept foreigners as customers if they can agree to follow the rules of the bar, though he would be wary for potential problems.
The article was edited by Michael Griffin.
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