The Observers – Expats in South Korea accuse bars and nightclubs of racism and exclusion

Expats and immigrants in South Korea have used TikTok to share films they say reveal xenophobia and discrimination in nightclubs across the country. Our observers tell us that some golf equipment and venues are systematically banning foreigners from entering, coverage that primarily affects individuals of color.

Kirsten Keels is a black American scholar living in Seoul. He has tried to raise considerations about the discrimination foreigners, especially people of color, face in South Korean nightclubs.

I went to a pretty stylish membership in Gangnam two years ago. The bouncer, checking on my best friend, said, “Oh, there’s someone in your group who might not be available.” And the guard leaned forward and he met my eyes and he looked me up and down and he said, “Dress code.” And I looked down and thought, “This isn’t right, we checked the costume code.”

But it’s definitely the truth that she’s been staring at me that I think it’s not just about the costume code. It seems very clear that he doesn’t need us here. Or we are not welcome here. I am not welcome here. It’s quite common to say, “There are too many foreigners” or “You may not be available.” But then we see white people in the membership being allowed in or out.

Keels made an inventory of inclusive places that are protected areas for foreigners in South Korea hoping to benefit from the nightlife.

We created this checklist just to make it a little simpler for everyone concerned. Plus because we are tired of seeing our community and some other communities being harmed. We’re just acknowledging that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere. Our traditions are cherished here. We are appreciated here. And discrimination and racism should not be allowed.

According to our observers, places that deny entry to foreigners are in the minority, but it’s hard to talk about them on social media. The legal guidelines that punish defamation in South Korea are very strict and can even result in imprisonment. It means that people are hesitant to name the golf equipment that rejects them.

There are no rules to punish discriminatory practices in South Korea, be it about nationality, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

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