South Korea gym under fire for banning misbehaving "aunties"

Friday, 14 June 2024 - 10:36

A gym in Incheon, South Korea, has come under fire for banning misbehaving "aunties," or "ajummas," reigniting discussions about age and gender discrimination in the country. The gym's sign explicitly stated, "off limits to ajummas" and "only cultivated and elegant women allowed," targeting older women typically in their late 30s and onwards. The term "ajumma" is often used pejoratively to describe behavior perceived as rude or obnoxious.

The gym owner defended the decision, citing repeated damages and disturbances caused by these women. In a televised interview with South Korean news agency Yonhap, he claimed that some older women misused the changing rooms, stole items such as towels and hair dryers, and made inappropriate comments about other patrons' bodies. These behaviors reportedly led to younger women quitting the gym due to discomfort and harassment.

The ban has struck a nerve, highlighting a broader trend in South Korea where businesses increasingly exclude specific age groups, including children and seniors, from certain public places. Critics argue that the gym's policy unfairly conflates poor behavior with a specific demographic.

Social media responses have been divided. Some users condemned the policy as discriminatory and outdated. "How did the term 'bad customer' become the same as 'ajumma'?" one comment on local social media website instiz questioned. Another commenter criticized the sentiment as reminiscent of early 2000s attitudes, highlighting that rudeness is not exclusive to older women.

Despite the backlash, some individuals supported the gym's stance, associating bad manners with older women. Comments on platforms like YouTube described them as "territorial" and "senseless," and criticized them for occupying public spaces with their children in a disruptive manner.

South Korean women have long battled societal expectations, fighting for non-traditional choices in a culture that imposes strict standards on them. Many argue that men are rarely judged as harshly for similar behaviors. Psychology professor Park Sang-hee, in an interview with JTBC, emphasized that rude behaviors are not exclusive to older women, noting that older men often exhibit similar conduct.

The gym's attempt to justify its policy included an additional notice distinguishing between "ajummas" and women in general, claiming that ajummas are stingy with their own money but not with others', and have a penchant for free items. The owner suggested that other business owners might share his views but remain silent.

As debates continue, the incident highlights the need for a nuanced approach to managing customer behavior, one that avoids broad generalizations and respects all demographics. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are called upon to address any illegal activities connected to this issue responsibly.

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