Racism in Korean Gyms? Hongik University Gym Bans Foreign Students

Foreigners Are Dangerous


Ok, so most of us literally have to drag our asses to the gym. I know during the extremely brief times in my life when I decided to go it was an absolute chore. But, the international students of the International Language Institute of Hongik University no longer have to worry about getting that motivation. They are all outright banned!  That’s right!  No foreigners allowed!  

Why you ask? Well you are about to find out. . .

Introducing Jyri Poussu; a 21 year old guy from Finland.


He has been studying in this university for eight months now. He is an active fella, currently trying to learn Korean, make local friends and assimilate into Korean culture. Back in his native Finland, strangers absolutely do not speak to each other. Over here, he loves the fact that often Koreans will approach him looking for a conversation. He has been having a splendid time over here thus far.

But two weeks ago he went into his university gym to renew his membership. He had been attending the gym since he arrived. Jyri says it went down as follows: “the staff member told me they no longer allowed foreigners to join there. I demanded a reason and they said that foreigners cause trouble so they ban them.”

His first reaction was shock, then anger. He went to his university to complain. They told him that they have no power and that they are just renting the gym space. That being said, all the staff there are unpaid university students. I’d assume the college would have some semblance of power over a place staffed by their own students!

He then went in another day with a reporter and the staff there backpedalled and said it was because some of Jyri’s friends (you know, more FOREIGNERS… they are all the same really!) were getting a bit hot and heavy in the gym, performing a sexy dance known as ‘Tteok Dance’. As a result the gym committee decided that it was too much hassle and that a blanket ban was the best solution to the problem.


The Gym’s Side:

They never said ‘all foreigners are banned’. They have just banned all students of the International Language Institute. Such students come in, they act inappropriately with each other, they throw gym equipment around and make trouble in the gym. That is the same reason they banned Korean freshmen.

Jyri’s Side:

He wants to work out in his university’s gym. It makes no sense that he should be punished for the actions of others. This is blatant racial discrimination.

My Side:

I think although perhaps there were some people acting out of line, it is ridiculous to blame EVERY OTHER foreign person and assume that they would also be acting in the same manner. Doesn’t the whole thing sound extremely discriminatory? No one should blame the actions of the minority on the whole majority.


Jyri looks at it this way:

even if they had issues with them they should have talked with her directly but instead they used those reasons as an excuse to ban us from there”

I asked him would anything like this happen in his country and he had this to say:

Something like this would never happen in my country not in any kind of situation. The discrimination of any kind is against the law there and the authorities would be angry and get involved if this thing would take place in my country


But during their time in Korea foreigners often encounter situations such as this, which would be totally ridiculous in their own countries…. This keeps on happening all over Korea. In 2014,a sign saying ‘No Africans’ was put up in a bar in Itaewan and other bars have completely closed their doors to foreigners. Every time someone makes some noise about it, time and time again  the same excuse is heard, which gives us neither a solution nor any solace:

“But this is Korea. . .”

What do you think? Was the gym justified? Let us know!

Update 7/10/15:  We have received news that the gym stopped its ban on foreign students.  In the grand scheme of race relations in Korea, this situation was rectified quickly.  Hopefully in the future, race discrimination will be prevented or resolved just as quickly. 

2 thoughts on “Racism in Korean Gyms? Hongik University Gym Bans Foreign Students

  1. Hi,

    No I don’t think the gym was justified in its actions and it’s sad tgththat they’ve resorted to this. But I just want to add though that this kind of thing doesn’t just happen in Korea. Some hotels in Europe have banned the Chinese from staying in their hotels. Here’s one example: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2211788/Zadig–Voltaire-ban-Chinese-tourists-new-boutique-hotel-Paris.html

    And I’ve heard of a few shops in Southeast Asia banning Koreans. Here’s one example: http://iamkoream.com/bali-businesses-ban-annoying-korean-tourists/

    This kind of thing happens elsewhere too. And for this Finnish guy, just found this article via Google. It’s not racism but still a form of discrimination: http://www.onislam.net/english/news/europe/470939-finnish-muslims-want-police-hijab.html

    Again, I’m against discrimination. But sadly it’s everywhere.


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