Remembering children’s rights
The author is a welfare administration news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
An 11-year-old writer named Jeon I-su recently posted a journal entry about being rejected from a restaurant that is designated a “No Kids Zone.” The family went to a steak restaurant to celebrate his brother U-tae’s 10th birthday. The family had dined there two years earlier. “My family decided to travel an hour to go to a steak restaurant U-tae had looked forward to visiting. U-tae was singing the way there, and so was I.”
The family arrived at the restaurant, but the restaurant did not admit the family. The restaurant had become a “No Kids Zone.” A restaurant staff member pushed the befuddled brother on the back and said, “This is a No Kids Zone. It means kids are not allowed.” Jeon responded, “We are here to eat. Today is my brother’s birthday.” The employee repeated, “You are not allowed here. Please leave.”
“When we left, U-tae was crying. U-tae’s sadness made mom’s heart and my own ache.” Jeon’s family had to go somewhere else.
In 2017, the National Human Rights Commission ruled that restaurants operating as “No Kids Zones” were discriminatory on the basis of age without logical reason. The commission saw that businesses were prioritizing themselves over the rights of children. Despite their recommendations, No Kids Zones are increasing and its now easy to find cafes and restaurants that ban children.
Many people support No Kids Zones, not because of the kids themselves, but because of their parents, especially the parents who let their children be noisy, run around and who even change a child’s diapers inside. These rude parents deserve criticism. But can they be the reason to institute a No Kids Zone? It is fair to demand appropriate public behavior, but it is discriminatory and an expression of hatred to exclude a certain generation or group because of the actions of a few.
Jeon’s words made me ashamed. “It is understandable that grown-ups want to be quiet and enjoy meals comfortably without children. But I think that a child’s right to enter the restaurant is more important than the rights of grown-ups to be comfortable. Children grow up to become adults. The adults may be forgetting that they were once children too.”
JoongAng Sunday, April 6, Page 31