No entry for 'aunties': S. Korean gym under fire for creating ‘No ajumma zone’

In South Korea, it is legally possible for a business owner to restrict entry to certain customers under the principle of freedom of contract. - Reuters

SEOUL: In South Korea, the debate has intensified over indoor spaces attempting to bar certain groups from entry, notably sparked by a gym’s recent decision to ban older women, creating a “no-ajumma zone”.

According to a June 10 post on Blind, an online discussion platform for verified employees, a gym in Incheon hung up a sign on its premises that said “ajumma not allowed to enter”, with an additional explanation below that read: “Only cultivated and elegant women allowed.”

Roughly equivalent to “madam”, “ajumma” is a Korean word for informally referring to a married or middle-aged woman. The term, however, has grown to incorporate derogatory implications over the years, with South Koreans now being reluctant to use it, especially in public or official situations.

The gym also posted a sign with eight standards for differentiating ajumma from “women”, regardless of age or marital status.

The sign said that a person is considered an ajumma under the following conditions: if one likes free things, regardless of one’s age; if one gets sworn at everywhere but does not know the reason why; if one sits in a seat reserved for pregnant women on public transport; if one goes to a cafe with another person and orders just one cup of coffee, and asks for a cup to share; if one secretly throws food waste into a public bathroom or other toilets; if one is frugal with their own money but not with that of others; and if one has poor memory and judgment and says the same things over and over again.

The gym owner claimed that he created the “no-ajumma zone” because he suffered “great damage” due to such older women.

“Some ‘ajumeoni’ (the respectful term for older women) brought baskets of laundry to the gym and left the hot water running for an hour or two, which doubled the water bill, and made sexually harassing comments to young female members, telling them they would bear babies well,” added the gym owner in the post.

This incident has come to light amid growing concern over public manifestations of intolerance and discrimination in South Korean society where “no” zones have recently been emerging.

Under Article 11 of the Constitution, “there shall be no discrimination in political, economic, social or cultural life on account of sex, religion or social status”. The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) cited this clause in 2017 in its ruling that “no-children zones” constitute acts of discrimination and are illegal.

Still, the NHRCK lacks the legal authority to enforce its ruling on businesses, and thus it remains only a “recommendation”. herefore, in South Korea, it is legally possible for a business owner to restrict entry to certain customers under the principle of freedom of contract or the principle of private autonomy.

Alongside Japan, South Korea is the only country among Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development member nations lacking a comprehensive law preventing discrimination against groups or individuals based on sex, disability, age, race, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion and political opinions, among others. - The Korea Herald/ANN

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South Korea , gyms , ajumma , ban , older women


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