Itaewon Bar’s Ebola Ban Sparks Outrage


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.


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smurfystew is the founding editor and lead web designer at He originally hails from the Mount Rushmore state. He has previously lived in South Korea, East Timor, and Cambodia. He currently resides in South Korea where he works as an English teacher and freelance writer. To get in touch, please feel free to email him at:


    • It is much, much easier to catch a cold or flu than it is to contract the Ebola virus, which is transmitted by human contact. EBOLA IS NOT AN AIRBORNE VIRUS. It should also be noted that there are probably cries of racism because, most likely, all black patrons are probably stopped at the door because 1) there is no way to tell what country a black patron is from and 2) it is not immediately assumed that a white patron is from Africa so they are probably given the benefit of the doubt and let in. The problem with this policy is that business is going to suffer immensely because foreign military bases are located in Itaewon and a lot of the personnel are black not to mention the fact that the premise of the policy (Ebola is easily contractable because it is airborne) is factually — as well as morally — wrong.

  1. I’m no epidemiologist, but I do know that by virtue of simply being (generically termed) “African,” you do not automatically have Ebola, or expose others to it. Africa is a continent, not a country, and just because of an outbreak in one or two of the countries occurs, that does not mean that “Africans” are just going to have it.

    • I used to work at jr bbq on the other side of itaewon. Troy would never allow this . And jrs is known or being a fun place for foreigners to go. I cant believe this

  2. I have been frustrated (understatement) by the reactions by Koreans to Ebola. I asked for two days unpaid leave in the September holidays so that I could visit my family and partner in Cape Town. If they had just said no I would be fine, but instead they have called the ministry of health and had an official recommendation not to let me go for “national health security reasons”. Nothing personal.

    • Are you kidding? They can’t control where you go on your holiday. That’s ridiculous. Are you sure it’s official? I swear there have been so many instances where they deemed something official, but it wasn’t really. Lots of manipulation and lying.

      • They can’t control where I go, but they can deny me the leave I need to get there and back in a reasonable amount of time, and I won’t lie. I have no idea if it’s official or not. I hope it isn’t – if it is it’s worrying.

    • During the swine flu outbreak my school attempted to make all the foreign teachers take a “mandatory” week of unpaid vacation because we were potential carriers.

      Keep in mind none of us had left the country.

      After lots of arguing and contract waving we all got a week of paid “quarantine”. It was awesome.

  3. Why were white South Africans allowed in but not black Africans?

    That’s a big old pile of bullshit.

    Can’t wait to see this place shuttered.

      • Numerous people/sources have mentioned that white South Africans were being allowed in. It also says this in the article, “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.”

  4. OK. Offense taken. As an African, i am curious, what will your next line be to exclude us. Ebola was not the reason, we all know that

  5. At least we don’t shoot them six times in the streets…nor we have enslaved African people to work in cotton fields.
    Also, I don’t recall when we asked “coloured-people” to ride in the back of the bus.
    West had more than 300 years to get use to racial-mixing society. Korea had only 50 years. Why don’t you give us a break and see how great your own homeland is regarding racism and stupidity?

    • You are either a troll trying to stir up tensions, don’t you have anything better to do?

      Or, you are using the well worn Korea formula of avoiding responsibility and attacking another issue for which I would proffer you know little about.

      Korea has only had 50 years of development, but as a society some of the values are very outdated and the pace of change in people’s attitude depressing. Furthermore, in the last 50 years it baffles me as to why the “Korean” model of Confucius and Neo-Confucius still prevails.

  6. There has been drastic improvement in technology in Korea, however, the country is still messed up in terms of social improvement. It will be as reasonable probably in 60 years.

  7. Get the fuck out of our country you dumbass expats. If you don’t like how we operate, then go migrate to another country and fuck shit up. And for you white Americans, hope you don’t let your family see what you’ve posted…might think your a “nigger lover.” Cheers

    • Hahahaha… you aren’t exactly building a great case here.

      One can criticize actions without thinking badly of an entire group of people.

      I’m horrified by what is happening in the U.S. with the police. Doesn’t mean I think all policemen are evil.

      There’s needs to be a bit more sensitivity in dealing with issues like this one. I get the fear that people have… but not allowing Nigerian students to come to a conference? Posting signs like this one (which it’s pretty obvious is a transparent ploy to keep black people out of the bar)? It’s wrong. It would be wrong back home and it’s wrong here.

  8. I’m not white, American or from any Western country, and indeed I don’t think white Americans have any place in this debate since they have clearly caused far more harm to black people than Koreans ever have. Still this sign was racist and wrong and since I live in Korea and I’m a minority here, I feel I have the right to say that. The world has come too far now for anybody to say “if you don’t like it, get out”. If you let somebody into your country, they’re going to form opinions about it. That’s inevitable.

    But the white Americans posting on here? For shame. With all the killings of innocent black people in the US, of whom Mike Brown from Ferguson is only the latest face, how dare you come on here and criticise Korea over a sign? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

    • Oh, get over yourself.

      I’m a white American who has lived here nearly 10 years. I had nothing to do with the young man in Ferguson or any of the other issues you mentioned. The U.S. hasn’t been my home in nearly a decade. And if I saw something like this in the U.S. you can bet I would be just as upset by it.

      I have a lot of issues with the things happening in the U.S. right now (one of the reasons I no longer live there). I have opinions on Israel and Palestine. Being white doesn’t automatically mean I’m not allowed to have opinions.

      Basically your argument is, “Oh, you’re white and American? You must be a terrible person who should not be allowed to say anything when they see injustice.” Hmmmmm…. sounds a bit… racist? no?

      Perhaps you should pull the log out of your butt and try to be a bit more reasonable.

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