Although this isn’t the first case I’ve heard of of sauna discrimination in Korea – and definitely not the first in East Asia – it is the first I’ve seen in the media. Hat tip to reader Steve Y.
Original article in Korean is at this link.
On the 14th the National Human Rights Commission announced it is investigating whether the human rights of 30-year-old Gu Su-jin, an Uzbekistan-born woman who was denied entrance to a sauna because of her differing skin color despite being a naturalized Korean citizen, were violated.
In 2002 she entered the country and married a Korean man two years later, and took Korean citizenship in 2009.
She has a national ID card, driver’s license, and passport, all issued by the Korean government, and has taken a Korean name.
Mrs. Gu attempted to enter a sauna near herhome in the Choryang-dong area of Busan on the afternoon of September 25 but was refused for being a “foreigner”.
An employee of the business said that “foreigners may not come in… Foreigners can make the sauna dirty and there is also the problem of AIDS, so Korean guests will feel unwelcome and foreigners are therefore not allowed in at all.”
Mrs. Gu showed her national ID card and explained that she was a naturalized Korean citizen, but the business replied that “your appearance is that of a foreigner and we have never allowed foreigners to come in, so it would be against the rules.”
Mrs. Gu went to the police to report the business for discrimination, but the police took no action, claiming that there is no law preventing businesses from refusing entry to foreigners.
An official with the Gyeongnam Migrant Community Service Center in South Gyeongsang Province (경남이주민노동복지센터) said that “Mrs. Gu’s son will begin elementary school next year… Mrs. Gu believes that this problem must be solved so that her son is never victimized for having a different appearance.”
On the 13th the center sent a petition to the NHRC demanding an investigation of the discrimination, and plans to file a citizen’s complaint for Mrs. Gu’s emotional injuries.
An official with the NHRC said that “it has been not even one day since the petition was received, so we need more time to confirm its allegations… If racial discrimination is found to have taken place we will take the necessary actions.”