A glamping site near Bukhansan in the western part of Seoul (South Korea) caught criticism for banning certain people from booking accommodations.
The booking website says rentals are only available to a select few. Among a list of people who “cannot make bookings” are groups consisting of two men or only men.
“Under no circumstances can the groups mentioned above book with us—no exceptions,” the glamping site announced on a web portal.
Kim Ji-hak, the head of the non-profit group Diversity Korea, said banning male guests, in general, can be grounds for discrimination.
Kim expressed that if the facility wants to maintain a particular atmosphere, like a relaxing place for female guests and families, it could make explicit a set of rules that all guests must adhere to.
“For example, (the operator could ask guests) not to join guests staying in other caravans or ask for other guests’ phone numbers,” Kim added.
“Whether the male-only group policy stems from a misguided perception that all male guests would inconvenience visitors or is just an outright rejection of gay couples, it could be seen as a type of discrimination,” he continued.
Earlier this month, a different camping site caused controversy online about its policy of excluding 40-year-olds from booking a caravan.
“Even if you are a couple, we are not suitable for lovers in their 40s and over who are not family,” an announcement read.
“Our camping site has switched to caravans, which appeal to those in their 20s and 30s and are not suitable to those aged 40 and older.”
In the wake of criticisms of companies for discriminatory practices, others claimed that customers are free to go elsewhere.
It’s not the only time in Korea that businesses have been the subject of controversy by restricting certain groups of individuals.
In 2017, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea declared that “no-kids zone” restaurants, which do not serve customers with children, are discriminatory.
In a case of a restaurant that prohibited youth aged 13 or less from entering, the state’s human rights group said it was a form of discrimination based on age.
Although the restaurant insisted that children could be a liability for their business and can cause injuries and inconveniences to their customers, the watchdog claimed the decision was a “generalization” based on isolated cases.
“(The restaurant) could specify the type of behavior that could obstruct their business and let customers know in advance that they could be asked to leave or have limited access to their services instead,” the watchdog said.
The group also added that with the absence of any anti-discrimination laws in Korea and no practical way to find out the motives behind such actions, the public is bound to feel discriminated against in these situations.
A few months ago, a post shared on social media by a parent who confessed to cutting their camping excursion short and returning home with their kids after making eye contact with a gay couple staying next door drew controversy.
“I don’t hate gay or criticize couples,” the anonymous comment read. “If they want to make out, I hope they go camping in a remote area.”
Some criticized the post for singling out gay people; others decried the couple for their public displays of affection.
The debate about preserving freedom of business versus protecting equality rights continues; Kim said South Korea has to determine what direction it wants to take.
“As a society, it’s high time we discussed if we want to move in a direction where we try to get rid of people who we find difficult to deal with or embrace the difficulties and find ways to live together,” he said.
“If kids are banned because they are loud and unruly, elderly people are banned for being stubborn and smelly, disabled people are banned for making things difficult, sexual minorities are banned for making people uncomfortable, or migrants are banned for being scary, there will be no one left.” Kim ended.