Korean restaurant refuses to serve non-Koreans

August 28, 2006 7:13 PM

There was a promo shown last night on TV for A Current Affair which got me quite riled up at first. It was a typical ACA promo – reporter and camera crew going into a non-descript Asian restaurant, hands of the restaurant owner shoving the camera while the reporter says, “Don’t touch the camera. We just want to ask you why you don’t serve Australians?”

The promo served its purpose – it made me wanna watch it, even though I loathe ACA usually for its pandering to the lowest common denominator. My first reaction as someone who had worked in several restaurants and had run one myself was, “What restauranteur would turn away business on the basis of skin colour?” That’s a ludicrous idea. Money is money, the more the better.

So it was with a sense of dread that I sat down to watch it – I thought that they were gonna make the Asians look bad and they were gonna interview some rednecks on the street who will accuse the Asians of being racist amidst cries of “If they don’t like us, they shouldn’t come here in the first place.” Woohoo. It’s gonna be great TV!

And it turned out that the ACA report was quite fair and the reporter was very polite. The restaurant in question is a Korean restaurant in Nelson Bay, NSW which according to the owners only “serve Korean tourists”. When asked why by the reporter, one of them said that they have had problems with “Aussie” customers not liking the food or something. A lame excuse if you asked me. Plus “Aussie” customers are more cosmopolitan than people give them credit for.

In my view the restaurant is limiting their business unnecessarily for a very stupid reason. Sure you get the occasional problematic customers now and again, but they come in *all colours*. The Nelson Bay City Council is already looking into revoking their restaurant license.

The story was ludicrious all right but not for the reason that I had assumed at first. Hey you can’t blame me, ACA has a spotty track record when it comes to issues of race. In this instance however I do approve and agree that the restaurant owners should be punished just so that they know how idiotic they are.

[tags]Australian, television, multiculturalism, anti-racism[/tags]

15 thoughts on “Korean restaurant refuses to serve non-Koreans

  1. Rob

    yeah the story makes no sense. growing up in the back of a restaurant we loved aussies. generally they eat more and drink more and tip better.
    I agree ACA has zero credibilty for journalism. why let the truth get in the way of a good story.

  2. Nadia

    (long comment, brace yourselves)

    I wanted to watch this story, but completely forgot about it.

    If the case presented by ACA was spot on, I’d definitely agree with you – it seems ridiculous that someone would turn away business, period.

    However, I am wondering whether the restauranters were misconstrued or manipulated to give the answers the ACA crew wanted.

    When you mentioned that they specialise in serving Korean tourists, it made me think of special tours for Muslims to China. I vaguely remember hearing about Muslim travel agents (like the ones who organise pilgrimage packages) which organise catered tours for their customers so that they don’t have to worry about the lack of halal food. Perhaps this restaurant was set up to follow in this vein? Perhaps this is a well-intended plan gone wrong?

    Also, the comment about Aussie customers not liking the food may have been used out of context. It could have been:

    Reporter: You don’t seem to have that many aussie customers.
    Owner: No, not really. We tend to get a lot of korean tourists.
    Reporter: Why is it that you don’t serve aussie customers?
    Owner: They don’t seem to like our food.

    For all we know, the guy could have been baited into that situation. He may not necessarily think that all aussies hate korean food – perhaps he might think that the korean food he serves is more of an acquired taste. Like durians.

    Every coin has two sides – and unfortunately, I really have no clue as to what to think about this story.

  3. jl

    Agree with you on ACA. I only ever catch snippets of it when i’m at the gym and i’m always amazed by the dubious items ACA tries to pass off as journalism. I shudder to think how much has been edited and manipulated to sensationalise their ‘stories’.

  4. mooiness Post author

    Rob: yes the story makes no sense (ACA or not), and even considering that there would be editing involved, what restaurant would turn away business unnecessarily?

    herman: generally yes. 😉

    Nadia: but this isn’t a Muslim/Halal/Kosher thing – even then, a non-Muslim/non-Jewish person should still be able to try the food. You had to watch it. The whole interview was not just the snippet that I quoted.

    jl: as cynical as I am, I wasn’t offended as usual when they’d do a story on race. They didn’t do a chase nor did they shove the camera in their faces. They just stood there and asked the question point blank, and the answer was lame.

  5. mooiness Post author

    splashmilk: in this case I think it’s less a case of racism and more of stupidity. They probably had a few bad experiences with Aussie customers and then decided not to serve *all* Aussies.

  6. Paul

    As a 1.5 generation Korean-Australian, I try to be selective about what I watch on television because I believe some of the outlets to be quite biased. Usually I would keep away from programs such as “A Current Affair” or “Today Tonight”, however, like yourself, when I saw Monday (28/08/06) morning – channel nine’s promo for the evening’s ACA, with the headline, “Australians, be angry!” I sat myself down to see what the fuss was about.

    Actually, the story was about a Korean restaurant in Nelson Bay allegedly refusing service to non-Korean customers. The presenter had a simple question aimed at the management of the business, “Why are you refusing to serve Australians?” Unfortunately, none of the people working at the restaurant could speak English well enough to give a satisfactory response to the presenter’s question.

    It’s sad to see cases such as these because these first generation migrants are people like my parents. This may be the case for many Australians out there whose parents migrated to Australia from another country. The problem here is that the ACA presenter did not seem to have done any research into the situation prior to visiting the Nelson Bay restaurant. This lack of understanding, or ignorance, is what prompts me to write post. I do not believe that the journalist was fair nor polite in his dealings with the restaurant owners and waitstaff.

    There are tens of thousands of Korean tourists coming to Australia each year. They surely contribute not an insignificant amount of money into our Australian economy. When Koreans come to Australia, because of their clear language barrier and difficulties associated with this, they will travel in large groups and purchase “package tours”. When they go on these package tours, tour guides come along and chaperone them. These tour guides receive commission when they take large groups to restaurants for meals. Of course, these provisions are negotiated well before the tourists arrive in Australia and tourists have no option but to eat at the chosen establishment.

    This may sound quite ordinary but this is the way it is done in Korea for much of their tourism. Yes, this means domestic as well as overseas. In Korea, there are restaurants that exist in holiday locations solely for the purpose of tourist business. They are named so. This Nelson Bay restaurant is one of a small number of regional Korean restaurants operated to serve Korean tourists. These restaurants will often have a very limited menu, sometimes having one dish only, since whatever they have on the menu, customers will have to order and eat anyway.

    However, I do not believe that the management of the restaurant started the business with the intention of serving Korean tourists only. But when you consider the situation, and I am sure they would have had the odd non-Korean customer coming in and not understanding why there is only one/two dishes on the menu, and why they’re saying that there are no seats when the restaurant is nearly empty, and why they can’t speak English, etc., they would have thought things maybe easier if they just served Korean tourists.

    I don’t think this is right. Of course, they should be serving whoever that wants to come to the restaurant and eat at that restaurant. But what I want to say is that perhaps, due to my heritage and insight into the Korean community, there is more to the story than presented in yesterday’s ACA report. Much more. I know how difficult it must be to find waitstaff to work at such places who can speak both Korean and English fluently. Of course there are plenty of fluently bi-lingual Korean Australians out there but how many of them would want to go to Nelson Bay and work in a restaurant as a waitperson? Those restaurant operators got into the business due to the supply and demand in Australian tourism. There are certainly some things the restaurant must change in their attitude and capacity, but I find ACA’s approach and method of reporting, with clear lack of research, sad and depressing. Their morning promo with the caption, “Australians, be angry!”, clearly shows their prejudiced standpoint.

    Thanks for reading!

  7. mooiness Post author

    Paul: thanks for your thoughts on this. I too agree that ACA is not the bastion of good journalism and they do beat up the story to sensationalise it.

    However I do not agree that just because the restaurant owners cannot speak English well, they should then not serve other Australians – how about Chinese or Vietnamese Australians who can’t speak Korean?

    Furthermore why limit your business this way? There are plenty of Asian restaurants (Thai, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese) which have owners who can’t speak good English but yet do good business with *everyone* and not just their own ethnicity.

    As for a typical “Aussie” not being able to handle the food – how would they know if they aren’t even allowed to try?

  8. Paul

    🙂 Yes, I know. If I was the owner, I would certainly do things differently. But what really got to me was the actual promo for the segment, which I thought was demeaning for Asians in general. Also, some background research into how this sector of tourism operate may have shown a different perspective. I just feel that what was put together by the presenter and shown on Monday night was a one-sided report with no explanation of the circumstances surrounding the situation.

    Perhaps it is easier for me to understand, being of Korean origin myself. Even in Sydney, I have been told that there were no seats available at a Korean restaurant when they had an empty restaurant. To my amazement, they were waiting for a group of tourists to come. These establishments do exist. I’m not arguing for or against them, all I’m saying is that these places do exist but I don’t see it being against “Australians”, nor do I see any reason for Aussies to get angry about as ACA tries to work the viewers to feel towards Koreans/Asians.

  9. mooiness Post author

    Paul: fair enough. I think had they just simply put up a sign that says, “Open only by appointment for tourists” then all this miscommunications would have been avoided. 😉

    Surely they know someone who can speak good English who can help them with the proper signage. I mean they must have had some language help in applying for the restaurant license from the city council.

    But yeah I was riled up by the promo too – that’s why I watched it. Normally I avoid ACA/Today Tonight like the plague.

  10. Paul

    Heheh.. that is a good idea you have there. I think the whole situation is due to miscommunication – and journalists should be the last ones to take advantage of miscommunication for their own benefit. I said “should be the last ones”, but they are often the first.

  11. atrac02

    after watching the add for the segment i too was pretty fired up. firstly, what’s ACA’s definition of ‘australians’ anyway? i have asain blood but ask me what nationality i am and i would answer, australian.

    it’s programs like these that, in my opinion, promote racism in australia to an extent. the ad alone, without having watched the show, would have left a bad impression in many peoples minds of asains in general.

    to me it doesnt really matter whether this particular restaurant was serving aussies or not. the case is that the majority of restaurants owned by imagrants do serve everyone and anyone.

    … so my point… australia, im sure, isnt nearly as racist as it was say, 50 years ago, but of course it still exists. and i have to wonder if it is because of shows like this that the nation isn’t becoming any wiser. i realise the segment wasn’t saying specifically ‘koreans are bad’ but everybit of negative thought counts.

    so i found this site on google while trying to look for the actual video clip footage of the show. would anyone know where i could get it from?

  12. Sarah

    Hi, I understand that this issue has you all fired up, and I would too, just seeing the facts as it is on TV.

    But, I know for a fact that these restaurant owners had a reason for their refusal to accept Aussie customers.

    In the past they had Aussie customers who didn’t like the food they were served and in the end, these customers refused to pay for such “disgusting” food. Perhaps these restaurant owners made disgusting food, or that Korean food just wasn’t to these Aussie customers’ taste.

    ACA didn’t bother to find that out, and nor did they bother to find out what the Korean restaurant owners had to say about the complaint. They had no legal interpreter.

    I’m not saying that these restaurant owners were right in making the policy. It WAS stupid, but so were the customers who refused to pay for the food after it was made and half eaten. I’m not making this up, and you can find out for yourself. It’s just sad that people don’t bother to find out the other side of the story, especially when listening to only one side will make it interesting.

    Thanks for listening~~~ I’m just disappointed that for a program that is quite respected, ACA did not really do the smart thing and not have and interpreter with them at the time of humiliating those Koreans. It wasn’t fair and it made them look all the more stupider because they weren’t good at English.


  13. Ian

    I just went to Nelson Bay recently for the weekend, and i understand the Korean owner point of view. Me and My friends went there to enjoy our trip. While walking to the eye of Nelson Bay,
    everyone there started staring at us, making it uncomfortable, then a young “white” Australia approach us and said “Hey where you from”.I’m looking at him and his group, knowing he wants to stir some trouble for us so i ignored him. He then kept harassing us and ask if we have jobs,
    so we respond “Yes” and we nicely ask him “how about yourself” He then said ” No, maybe back 50years ago, since you guys keep stealing our jobs” he was only around mid 20’s, so why did he complain. He should just blame himself. We also went to the MC Donald there and the young girl at the counter was refusing to serve us and giving us attitude. Nelson Bay is a very nice place but the locals are very racist. Redneck Australian complaining that we are stealing their jobs and invading their country, but you invaded and stole the country from the Aboriginals first, so whose the hypocrite now. F.y.i Me and my friends are Asian and wog, we were born here, so that does make us an Aussie.



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