An Itaewon bar’s ban on entrance to Africans due to Ebola fears has sparked outrage and claims of racism and ignorance in the expat community of Korea. On Saturday, August 16th, someone from JR Pub posted a sign outside of the establishment which read, “We apologize But, due to Ebola virus we are not accepting Africans at the moment. – JR Pub”.
Response to the incident on social media has been swift and fierce. A photo of the sign banning Africans was shared thousands of times across various social networks and discussion of the incident is still on-going in expat forums around the Internet. Discussion of a boycott and for calls to be made to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea have been common place themes in online forums.
It was reported to Asia Pundits that a manager at the pub, who goes by the name Hannah Yoon, was contacted and confirmed the bar’s new policy, stating, “Koreans were uncomfortable”, adding that the bar needed to cater to their main patrons. Miss Yoon also stated that the bar’s owners were aware of the policy change.
Some commenters have claimed that the bar was not acting in a racist manner by banning entrance to all Africans and was instead confused about the nature of how Ebola is spread. However, this claim has also been disputed.
According to the woman who originally posted the image to the HBC/Itaewon Information Board on Facebook,
“I told them I was South African and after some deliberation they told me I could go in (I didn’t). Apparently white Africans are okay. Total bollocks.”
Others have claimed that after the sign was taken down due to customer complaints that the bar was still checking ID’s and not allowing entrance to black Africans for the remainder of Saturday evening.
By Sunday morning, one of the two owners of the bar had responded to the upheaval.
Owner Troy Armado stated, “I didn’t even know about this. I’m at the BBQ restaurant now. (He’s not overseeing the pub). I just hosted the Gabon ambassador last night at the BBQ. 50 people from Gabon reserved the roof yesterday. I will talk to whoever put up this sign. I will clear everything up today.”
A Kakao message from the same owner, which offered an apology for the hoopla was also shared on social media:
Korea’s response to the Ebola scare has been criticized as being reactionary.
It was reported earlier in the month that Duksung Women’s University and the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) have withdrawn invitations for Africans to participate in international conferences to be held in Korea. The cancellations were reportedly made in response to online outcry from university students concerned about contracting Ebola. More recently, Korean Air decided to suspend all flights to and from Nairobi, Kenya, a country which has seen no recorded cases of Ebola infection.
According to the the CDC, Ebola cannot be contracted through air, water or food and is only spread through direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.
Update: JR Pub has posted these signs outside of their bar in response to the criticism leveled against them.