SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Korea Bizwire) – The debate over ‘no-kids zones’ is heating up after a Korean human rights commission ruled the exclusive policy as discriminatory.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) announced last week it had advised a restaurant owner to lift a business policy banning children younger than 13 years old.
According to the commission, an individual who wished to remain anonymous filed a complaint after being denied entry to a restaurant on Jeju Island due to the establishment’s ‘no kids’ policy that barred their children from entering.
The restaurant responded to the controversial ruling, though not legally binding, saying that it decided to stop welcoming children aged 13 years of age after customers of similar age disturbed other patrons, leading to losses for the company.
Despite the hardships experienced by the restaurant, the human rights commission said it was discriminating against children.
“Though commercial property owners are guaranteed business rights as stated by Article 15 of the constitution, it doesn’t mean limitless freedom, ” the NHRCK said.
The commission argued the establishment in question was an Italian restaurant that sells pasta and steak, which isn’t harmful to the physical and mental health of children, unlike bars and clubs, while adding that not all children and parents disrupt normal business operations.
While the NHRCK brands no kids zones as an unsubstantiated generalization, the first government instruction on the controversial policy is being met with both praise and criticism.
While parents seem to welcome the NHRCK’s decision, many owners of restaurants that ban children express disagreement with the government’s stance, as they argue the freedom of business establishments shouldn’t be restricted.
Experts argue, however, that education on manners and consideration for others in public spaces could be the most effective approach to the heated debate between the advocates and opponents of the controversial ban on children.
Workers seem to overwhelmingly favor no kids zones, as 6 in 10 part-time food service workers would approve of their workplace adopting a similar policy, according to a survey by recruitment website Albamon in 2015.
In Gyeonggi Province, one of the areas with the highest concentration of children in the country, over 9 in 10 people said they have experienced inconvenience caused by children in public spaces, according to a survey conducted by the Gyeonggi Research Institute last year.
Findings showed over 7 in 10 people said they have experienced unpleasant encounters with children at cafés or restaurants, venues at the forefront of the debate.
With over 50 percent putting a customer’s right to happiness before children’s basic rights, the rise of the term ‘momchoong’ – a combination of the English word ‘mom’ and the Korean word ‘choong’ which means a vermin – reflects the negative sentiment towards irresponsible parents who many see as the reason behind the controversial no kids zones.
Not everyone is a fan of the no kids policy, however.
Nearly half of the respondents from the same survey said no kids zones are an extreme measure, while over 49 percent said banning children from food service venues like restaurants and cafes is making it even harder for parents to raise children in a country mired in an unprecedented fertility crisis.
Last year, South Korea ranked last in fertility rate among OECD countries according to Statistics Korea, with an average of only 1.17 births per woman.
Against this backdrop, the government has made it a priority to raise birthrates in a bid to boost the country’s economic growth, with plans for child subsidies and extended maternity leave.
Over 7 in 10 married working women with a child have no plans for another child, 25 percent of which cited financial burdens as a reason, according to a report from the Gyeonggido Family & Women Research Institute released last month.
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)