Clubs rethink discriminatory policy

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Clubs rethink discriminatory policy

Clubgoers may occasionally find themselves turned down at the door, whether it’s their outfit or lack of women in their group. But a long-standing form of discrimination practiced by many of Hongdae’s clubs is back in the spotlight: a ban on U.S. military personnel.

Whether to deny entry to U.S. military personnel has become a topic of debate among clubs after the reports in recent weeks of American soldiers being accused of sexual assault. Many club owners insist on barring U.S. military personnel, citing their fear of increased crime, while others say that U.S. military personnel have never created problems at their establishments.

At 1 a.m. last Saturday, a poster in Hongdae heralded Club Day, a well-known promotional event usually held on the last Friday of each month that allows the young and pretty to club-hop for the price of one cover charge. Near the bottom of the poster, a footnote read: “No entry for minors and U.S. military personnel.”

On this night, there were no U.S. military personnel in front of one popular club. A member of the Club Culture Association, an organization comprised of Hongdae club owners, this club has a strict, uniform ban on all American military personnel.

“After the recent cases of sexual assault involving U.S. [soldiers], there has been more rigid enforcement,” said a bouncer who was checking identification at the door.

Another club in the area, meanwhile, had many foreigners. A man with a crew cut who appeared to be a soldier had no problem getting in.

“We don’t bar people because they are U.S. military personnel,” said a 25-year-old employee. “There have been no problems caused by them.”

Unlike in Itaewon and Gangnam, clubs in Hongdae have discriminated against American military personnel since as far back as November 2002, after two Korean schoolgirls were accidentally killed by a U.S. military vehicle. These clubs also alleged that an increase in GIs frequenting the area corresponded with an increase in crimes committed by U.S. military personnel.

“There was a sense of crisis because there were too many U.S. military-related cases of sexual assault and harassment, and we believed that if things continued like this, the whole neighborhood would be ruined,” said Choi Jung-hwa, chairman of the Club Culture Association.

About 10 of the association’s clubs agreed to bar U.S. military personnel, according to Choi.

But the clubs began to divide over the ban last year. With business in Hongdae booming, dance clubs unaffiliated with the association began popping up and accepting U.S. military personnel. Some of the association’s clubs saw the new competition and their nondiscriminatory policies as harmful to business, spurring the association to change its position on banning U.S. military personnel from compulsory to recommended.

“If we don’t accept U.S. soldiers, then we will be the ones suffering losses,” Choi said in describing the general opinion of the association’s club owners. Starting next month, some clubs will start a separate association, worrying Choi that the restriction on U.S. military personnel will not carry over.

Some young Koreans said they supported the discriminatory policy.

Jung Seung-ho, 20, said, “There have been several incidents when a drunken GI swore and tried to pick a fight with [me],” adding that he tries to avoid such situations “since there is no good that can come from confronting [them].”

Another Korean clubgoer echoed Jung. “It’s true I felt uncomfortable after seeing the high school girl sexual assault cases on the news,” said 20-year-old Kim Dong-yeon. “Hongdae is one of the only places where I can enjoy listening to music and dancing, so [I] would like the ban on the U.S. military to be maintained.”

By Kim Hyo-eun, Noh Jin Ho []

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

미군 출입 “NO” “YES” … 둘로 쪼개진 홍대 클럽

협회 가입 클럽 “성범죄 많아”
“이대로 놔두면 동네 분위기 망쳐”
신흥 클럽들 “안 받을 이유 없다”
“미군 손님 끊기면 우리만 손해”

서울 마포구 홍익대 앞 클럽 거리가 ‘주한미군 출입’을 놓고 둘로 갈라지고 있다. “출입을 시킬 경우 미군 범죄가 늘어날 것”이란 주장과 “클럽 안에서 문제가 발생한 것도 아닌데 안 받을 이유가 없다”는 입장이 팽팽하게 맞서고 있는 것이다.

 15일 오전 1시 홍대 앞 거리. 매달 셋째 주, 넷째 주 금요일에 열리는 ‘클럽데이’를 홍보하는 포스터에 ‘미군과 미성년자 출입 금지’라는 글귀가 적혀 있었다. 사람이 많기로 유명한 A클럽 앞에는 미군의 모습이 눈에 띄지 않았다. 홍대 앞 클럽 운영자 등으로 구성된 ‘클럽문화협회’에 소속된 이곳은 미군 출입을 엄격히 금지하고 있다. 클럽 입구에서 신분증 검사를 하던 한 직원은 “최근 미군 성폭행 사건이 일어난 다음부터는 단속을 더 강화하고 있다”고 했다.

 같은 시각, 역시 협회에 소속된 B클럽. 이곳은 A클럽과 달리 많은 외국인이 드나들었다. 머리를 짧게 깎아 군인처럼 보이는 백인 남성도 별 제재 없이 입장했다. 직원 최모(25)씨는 “우리는 미군이라고 해서 막지 않는다”며 “그동안 클럽 안에서 미군이 문제를 일으킨 적이 없었다”고 했다.

 홍대 앞 클럽들은 강남이나 이태원과 달리 2002년 11월부터 미군 출입을 막아왔다.

클럽문화 부흥기에 맞춰 홍대를 찾는 미군이 늘면서 미군 범죄도 함께 증가했기 때문이다. 클럽문화협회 최정한 회장은 “성폭행, 성희롱 사건 등 미군 범죄가 너무 많아 이대로는 동네 전체가 망할 수 있겠다는 위기감이 있었다”며 “협회에 가입된 10여 개 클럽이 전부 미군 금지를 찬성했다”고 말했다.

 클럽들 사이의 갈등은 지난해부터 시작됐다. 홍대 앞 상권이 급격히 커지면서 협회에 소속되지 않은 댄스클럽이 우후죽순처럼 들어섰다. 이들이 미군을 받기 시작하자 협회에 소속된 클럽까지도 영향을 받았다. 협회의 미군 출입 금지 조항도 ‘강제’에서 ‘권고’로 한발 물러섰다. 최 회장은 “일부 업주가 ‘미군을 받지 않다간 우리만 손해를 보게 된다’며 이의를 제기했다”며 “다음 달부터 댄스클럽은 따로 ‘업주협회’로 독립할 예정인데 미군 출입 금지가 잘 지켜질지 걱정”이라고 했다.

 클럽 거리에서 만난 젊은이들은 미군 출입 금지에 찬성하는 사람이 더 많았다. 정승호(20)씨는 “술에 취한 미군이 욕을 하고 시비를 건 적이 종종 있었다”며 “부딪쳐봐야 좋을 게 없어 일단 피하고 본다”고 했다.

김동연(20)씨는 “여고생 성폭행 뉴스를 보고 난 다음엔 좀 꺼림칙한 게 사실”이라며 “소위 ‘부킹’ 문화가 있는 강남·이태원은 몰라도 홍대는 좋아하는 음악 듣고 춤추는 유일한 곳인데 미군 출입 금지가 유지됐으면 좋겠다”고 했다.

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