Saturday, January 18, 2014

Good on you McDonalds, get those Ajusshis Outta there!

For the first time in my life I find myself a supporter of McDonalds.  I know they are loved by some, but personally, I can't stand McDonalds; I hate their food, I hate their image of corporate greed, low wages for employees, watching big fat slobs munching their way through gargantuan amounts of their food (and then not seeming to understand why they are overweight), that they market such unhealthy food heavily to children, and the fact they manage to weed their way into almost every city and big town on planet earth.  I don't like McDonalds, got it?

However, as much as McDonalds grinds my gears, there are some things that irk me so much that I rather spend my evenings listening to a nails on chalk board orchestra than have to hear about or see on a regular basis.  One of these are flippant accusations of racism or discrimination and phoney outrage, when the issue has nothing to do with discrimination or insensitivity (happens a lot these days) and one of the others is the smug, magnanimous, arrogant sense of entitlement of some older men in Korea and how they get away with it.

Why do they think they are entitled to so much respect?  Because they are old, period.  Well, it might work in Korea, but when they do something dumb, annoying, rude, or down-right out of order in other countries, they should not be surprised if some people call them out on it.  It isn't about racism, ageism or any other form of prejudice, in fact it it is the opposite; when people are being a dick, they should be called out for it, regardless of race, age, or whatever.

So to help me raise my blood pressure this week, we had a story that combined these two pet hates of mine.  Apparently, some Korean-American old fellas have been thrown out of a McDonalds in Queens, New York, by police because they - after only buying coffee (obviously not eating and I don't blame them) - then spent hours and hours gossiping away with each other whilst taking-up seating in the establishment.  One of the gentlemen involved, Man Hyung Lee, 77, had this to say (with some added commentary taken from the New York Times article):

"Mr. Lee said the officers had been called because he and his friends — a revolving group who shuffle into the McDonald’s on the corner of Parsons and Northern Boulevards on walkers, or with canes, in wheelchairs or with infirm steps, as early as 5 a.m. and often linger until well after dark — had, as they seem to do every day, long overstayed their welcome.
“They ordered us out,” Mr. Lee said from his seat in the same McDonald’s booth a week after the incident, beneath a sign that said customers have 20 minutes to finish their food. (He had already been there two hours.) “So I left,” he said."
Then, upon being ordered out of the restaurant by the police, what did he do?

 “Then I walked around the block and came right back again.”

Now, there is something quite comical about this, and at this stage, I did see the funny side of this story, at least to begin with.  Then Christine Colligan, a leader of the Korean Parents Association of New York, called for a worldwide boycott of McDonalds because of it all (from the New York Times second article on the story):

“Senior citizens should not be treated as criminals,” said Christine Colligan, a leader of the Korean Parents Association of New York, as she stood outside the restaurant, her voice rising. “They should be respected.”
That morning, Ms. Colligan had contacted her sprawling network in the Korean community urging a “worldwide” boycott of the fast-food restaurant for the month of February. In a letter, she attacked what she saw as “stark racism” by McDonald’s: “We will teach them a lesson,” the letter said.

"Stark racism", really?  Surely, in any restaurant (especially a fast food restaurant) if customers were buying a minimal amount and taking-up seats all day, something would be said, and if they didn't move, they would be forced to.  In my neck of the woods, if someone (and let's not forget, it seems to be a number of older Koreans) bought a coffee in a fast food restaurant and sat there for hours on end, preventing other customers from sitting down, most people would be thinking, "Are you taking the piss?  Bugger off."  I got told off for flicking through a magazine for a minute or two in a newsagents the other day and told, "this is not a library." Wait a minute, perhaps that was an example of racism, I should be outraged!  Or maybe they were just being a little harsh, but perhaps I'd had been reading it too long and they are a business selling magazines after all and many people do push the limits of browsing through a magazine in order to buy it sometimes.

I wonder if these Korean-American older men thought, "I wonder if my behaviour could be deemed a little cheeky, unacceptable, or inconsiderate to others" or "I wonder if a group of White older men - to prove a point - made sure they got into the restaurant before them at 5am and then sat there all day - not allowing us to sit down and have a chat over coffee - how we would feel about it?"  I am guessing from the stupidity of these reports and what has been said by the Korean community leaders, that this may not have seriously crossed their minds.

I suppose the 20 minute rule might be a bit strict, but they brought it on themselves.  If they stayed for half an hour, even maybe just an hour, they might have been annoyingly tolerated, but let's face it they were pushing it from even the most generous perspective.

I have ranted about Korean respect cultural many times on this blog, and this one side effect of it really gets to me.  I genuinely hate the feeling of superiority, the entitlement of elevated respect that many Korean older gentlemen think they deserve, and what they feel they can get away with because of it.  You're in America now gentlemen, respect has to be earned and you will be treated just like everyone else.  The horrible irony is that, these days, when Western countries do treat people of other countries, races, and cultures the same as everybody else, it's called 'racism'.


  1. Naw, yer wrong again. Calling the cops on senior citizens who are harming no one is a good policy? Riiiiggghhht.

    Hey, I’m very glad to hear that the crime rate in Gotham has gone down so much that New York’s Finest can moonlight as private security guards’ for a multinational corporation at taxpayer’s expense. Mickey D’s called 911 for this? At the very least this all smacks of misuse of public services – sitting and taking up space might be rude but it certainly isn’t criminal. Tell me they were loud and bothering other people and I’ll change my mind.

    I’m not sure whether it’s racism but it is definitely a trivial thing. Calling the police will backfire, has already done so. It was dumb.

    What woulda been smart? Calling up the same community leaders they are in a shouting match with now in the media and saying, ‘Hey, you know it looks like the elderly in this area need a place where they can get together and socialize – how about we all work together and see about getting a fund up to build a community center or something. We’re a big company but we are also part of the daily life of the neighborhood and we want to have a positive impact. Oh, wait, there already ARE such places? What do you suggest we do here, then?’

    That would have been smart, but the trouble is that fast-food franchises don’t really work like that. They put the least possible in and try to extract the very most they can. Just like any other set of corporate vampires. Things might have been different at some point in the past, but this is the modern world we have allowed to be created for us.

    McD’s will never get my support for anything. They sell cheap and unhealthy food and employ workers at such sub-poverty wages that many need to get govt assistance in addition to a second job. They can certainly afford whatever business they lost, and my fond hope is that people who asked for refunds and left found a place with good and healthy food instead. Fast food is America’s most malignant gift to the world, a blight upon the landscape and the world of cuisine, and I detest these people so much I’m in glee watching all the bad press they are getting now for their idiotic blunder.

    Love this video, by the way.

    1. Essentially, what you are asking for is extra special treatment, plain and simple.

      What you said about calling up community leaders and setting up somewhere for elderly people to hang out is all well and good, but as well as this now probably happening anyway because of this (indeed the furore over the whole thing may hasten the creation of such a place), it is not McDonald's responsibility to do this. They treated these Korean older people how they would treat any other group of people. In fact, according to one of the articles you linked on facebook, these Koreans had been loitering around the restaurant for years. It is quite possible they let it lie for such a long time because they were overly respecting them and worried about showing disrespect. I wouldn't mind also speculating because they were non-white they had even more trouble asking them to leave. If they were White Americans it would have happened a lot sooner, I reckon, because they wouldn't have been worried about charges of racism.

      It is also not really about not respecting your elders. Every decent person has been brought up to respect their elders (even me). However, this doesn't mean they can just get away with doing anything they please. I bet they were given more leeway than, say, a group of teenagers would have been or even middle-aged people.

      And the issue doesn't really have anything to do with the evil multinational McDonalds either. The same problem would occur in any shop in similar circumstances. If they had been sitting in a local man's privately owned sandwich shop they would have been met with similar treatment, perhaps much sooner and even more harshly.

      Another excellent point was raised on facebook, how long do you think a Korean establishment would put up with the same thing in the case of foreign elderly customers? I can't even believe they would tolerate it from elderly Koreans either. Business is business and staying in a fast food restaurant all day after buying one cup of coffee is taking the piss, no matter who is doing it.

      The whole thing has probably now helped hasten the creation of a truly nicer place for the Korean American elderly of Queens to spend their days chatting. If McDonalds had done it sooner things would be even better, that is their only mistake in this situation, they shouldn't have put-up with it for so long.

    2. As someone who has lived in Korea for an extensive period of time such behaviour is hardly surprising.

      This is not about defending McDonald's; it's about how these people are clearly being selfish, inconsiderate and ignorant of the other patrons. Basically they're exercising their self entitlement, holier-than-thou culture upon others. When other paying patrons are being forced to eat in the cold or eat over the rubbish disposal units THEN THEY ARE BEING IGNORANT, no two ways about it.

      Statements from the accused such as 'we don't like the food we like our Korean food' and 'we come here to gossip and talk politics' and also when you factor in that they bypass recreational spaces for senior citizens really make light of how selfish and inconsiderate these people are.

      Also, do the Koreans not understand that they are playing to the lowest common denominator of immigration politics (that is, by being seen as selfish and inconsiderate migrants who bring their Draconian and backward culture into their adopted homeland) they are essentially pandering to the most simple of immigrant hating bigots out there?

      And finally, right on cue, the race card. Do me a favour will you? The slaughtering of the Tamils in Sri Lanka - thats racism; Indian and Nepalese workers undergoing forced slave labour in Dubai and Doha - thats racism. This, this is about a bunch of spoilt, inconsiderate and selfish old men.

      Another good and concise write up, Christopher.

    3. Cheers. Yes, you make a good point about such behaviour being hardly surprising. Some people have commented elsewhere that this is not a cultural issue, but Korean older people clearly have issues with self-entitlement and it is easy to see when you live in Korea.

      I think the whole thing would have been quite amusing if the reaction by the Korean community was sensible and they held their hands up and showed some understanding, but they just dug in their heels and defended behaviour that was clearly unacceptable and went on the attack as well. Claiming racism, well that is just outrageous and pretty pathetic.

  2. This is something that has been a feature of life in Korea for me since day one: excusing bad and indecent behaviour when it originates from Koreans as well as people of different races and groups being held to a higher standard than Koreans themselves.

    Like a lot of the apologists on this story, they are conveniently overlooking the rights of the other patrons and trying to switch the narrative into one of senior citizens vs a big bad corporation; this is clearly not a genuine depiction of what is taking place.

  3. I find it a little amazing to see someone posit or even speculate reverse racism - even while admitting there’s no evidence. What’s the point of that?

    The borough of Queens has a rather storied history that includes more than just a few racially-charged incidents. It’s something that particular community is famous for, and you just need a few minutes with google to find that out. It was the home of the most famous bigot in television history, Archie Bunker. Given the background and what we know, reverse racism would be a truly amazing occurrence and would itself be grounds for headlines.

    1986 The Howard Beach Incident

    1998 Racist Parade

    2012 Racist Receipt (Korean couple)

    2013 Racist School Principal

    2013 Open Discrimination

    See it's Queens, and due to the quaint history of this little corner of the universe, you will more likely be correct if you start out with the assumption that there's an element of racial bias going on.

    1. I find it perfectly reasonable to speculate because of the fact those elderly Koreans had been getting away with it for so long. In the article you linked, apparently it had been going on for years! I was searching for explanations that hadn't been given elsewhere; I came up with 2 reasonable ones: 1) That McDonalds staff had extended respect for the elderly to the very limit, and 2) That perhaps they might have been frightened to say anything to an ethnic minority. All those linked stories you provided shows that race is a sensitive area in Queens, so you provided some of the evidence for speculating such a thing for me, and then confirmed what I said in your last sentence, thanks. (with such stuff going on in the past, do you not think McDonalds staff might have a fear of being perceived racist?)

      Of course each incident should be treated separately and there is no evidence whatsoever that this was a racially motivated incident against Koreans. Again, I think you are over-intellectualising this incident, just like you did with the Haribo liquorice sweets. Their behaviour was plain inconsiderate and no one anywhere, of any group would have got away with it forever.

    2. There’s nothing overly intellectual about this, nothing at all. You’ve got a community that has had a longstanding problem with race relations that spans many decades and the most logical conclusion would be that the current situation also reflects that prevalence of bigotry and intolerance – one would really have to do some acute mental gymnastics to assert the opposite, reverse racism.

      And it appears the situation has been resolved. The Daily News tells us now that a negotiated settlement has been reached due to some intercession on the part of a Korean-American politician. Another local politician (possibly also of Korean heritage) expresses some puzzlement over the 20-minute seating limit.

      ‘ “In Starbucks, no one rushes you out,” said Koo (D-Flushing). “You can spend half a day in a Starbucks.” ‘

      I wonder if anyone has any theories about why McDs wanted to completely ban these particular people from their establishment at any time of day, while other businesses feel no need for any such policy.

      I’ll note in passing, though I’m sure most would find it irrelevant, the men pictured here are all of the age to have lived through or served in the Police Action that destroyed this country and killed over 3 million Koreans, and thus allowed a Third World War to be avoided by siphoning the conflict into a proxy local engagement. The oft-repeated narrative (from Americans in particular) says that Koreans ought to be grateful for having saved them from the Communists, but I often think the opposite is true, that it was the Korean people who made the greater sacrifice – and I find it a bit sad that these guys are receiving so much disrespect, when really I think it should be otherwise.

    3. Hmm, I think you are reading so much more into this than there is. They simply were inconsiderate diners, plain and simple, they were given plenty of time to change their ways and I am sure plenty of warnings, getting the police was a desperate act as a last resort and has nothing to do with racism or disrespect.

      Dunno if I really have anything much else to say, other than they weren't spending half a day in McDonalds, they were spending all day there. Also, a coffee shop is an unfair comparison. Coffee shops are places people hang out and chat over a coffee, McDonalds is a FAST food restaurant. The restaurant in question was also small, judging by the reports and the Koreans were monopolising the seating. There is even a general feeling that people spend too long in coffee shops, like students who do coursework there and I have seen and heard of examples when such people have been asked to move along. The whole McDonalds thing would've been a non-issue if the Koreans in Queens had been reasonable and I am sure the restaurant wouldn't have introduced the rather harsh 20 minute rule.

  4. By the way, here's a piece from a half dozen years ago. In LA's Koreatown there's a Golden Arches that also has elderly Korean fans. No one asks them to leave. I guess LA is a different place than Queens.

    1. What is this supposed to prove? The Koreans at that McDonalds obviously weren't causing any problems, so they were allowed to stay. Perhaps the McDonalds was much bigger and could cope with them taking up seats, perhaps they stayed for less time, perhaps they even moved when they were asked to when it was busy. Who knows? There is none of this information in that post.

      I guess LA is a different place from Queens, but without all the relevant information we will never know exactly how.

    2. Well, you have the relevant information, don't you? The store is Queens is surrounded by a racist community where people are openly told they can't get a job in a bakery because of the color of their skin, where an immigrant Korean couple are casually given a receipt that labeled them as 'chinx.' Whereas the place in LA is attached to Koreatown, a large population of people from another country and thus a place where such people get vastly different and better treatment.

      I wasn't trying to prove anything, merely to show that more options exist than treating senior citizens as though they were a dangerous threat, and when things seem 'plain and simple' it's very possible that something is not being factored in. The Koreans in Queens also don't appear to be causing any problems aside from business during peak hours. That has been solved now, but it might have been solved before without recourse to the cops.

    3. John Power made a good point on facebook against your point in that what you are essentially saying is 'prove it is not racism'. Under your logic, Queens has had racial issues in the past, therefore every situation involving an ethnic minority now and in the future is most likely an example of racism. Do I really need to explain why this is faulty logic?

      As I said before, you look at the details of each case and in this one, it really is a business issue and one of inconsiderate behaviour, not a race issue.

    4. I never replied to Mr Power about that one because it didn’t seem to resemble anything I had ever said, so I didn’t think it was directed at me. Nor have I said anything like that here.

      A public business enacts a new policy directly aimed at a precise group of people. Other businesses in the area don’t have any similar policy, and the people the new policy intends to affect hail from a particular age and ethnic group. The policy is exclusionary and global, taking place at all times of day, not just at peak hours when business could be harmed by a lack of seating. All this not only appears to be possibly discriminatory, it is nearly the textbook definition of it.

      No negotiation or compromise ever occurred on the part of the restaurant owners – until boycotts were threatened that had the potential to affect the parent company not just there but in other places as well. The police were employed in ways that made people sitting and drinking coffee feel as though they were common criminals. McDs has expanded their menu in recently years to include cappuccinos and lattes, so they themselves are blurring lines between fast food and a cafĂ©.

      In addition to all this, you have a community with a well-documented and extensive history of racial strife that goes back decades and continues up until as recently as last summer. It’s not at all unreasonable to put this factor of racial bias in as among those requiring scrutiny. It’s not that anyone needs to prove it isn’t racism, but rather that with all things combined it is something that also needs to be under scrutiny. And it’s not unreasonable to look at this in such a light.

      However, rather than consider it, you seem to dismiss it without any consideration at all, and even assert the opposite, reverse racism. It’s possible that you didn’t know about what a racist place Queens is, until I informed you. No blame, you are an Englishman, after all, no reason to expect you to know about American cities.

      What I don’t understand is that after you’ve been made aware of what this place is really like, there seems no sign of alteration or accommodation in your attitude toward this. After new information comes in, often people will adjust in some way. But, no, no sign of that here.

    5. I don't think it has anything to do with racism because of the details of that case. Simple. Those Koreans were given the utmost respect for a very long time, I can't believe they were allowed to get away with it for such a long time. If they were racists, why didn't they enforce this stupid rule and get the police in on the first day!! I can't believe how complicated you are making this, it is a simple case of stubborn, inconsiderate old men.

      I am dismissing the idea of racism because there is no evidence for it IN THIS CASE. In this particular case, I am confused as to why it took so long to force them out of the restaurant, which is why I speculate they may have been afraid to offend an ethnic minority, not unheard of in this day and age and in a racially controversial area (like you mentioned) I would have thought this is more likely. However, I am only speculating about this. I am curious, though, why when these Korean people were interviewed they did not comment once that over the years that they had been treated badly (other than when they were finally turfed out) or felt uncomfortable in that McDonalds. Indeed, they seem to rather enjoy sitting in there don't they? If the staff at McDonalds had been racist, I would have thought they would not have been so comfortable. I posited the idea of reverse racism because there were questions unanswered as to why it took so long to chuck them out. Racism answers no unanswered questions in this case.

      So yes, I accept Queens might be a place where racism occurs, but to assume it is a factor in every case is barmy. Also, you have no idea whatsoever the proportion of interactions between people in Queens that results in a racist incident. Maybe it only occurs 1% of the time, but because it is reported it seems a cesspool of racism. America had black slaves and had a history of racism against black people, therefore every example of a black person sent to jail is an example of racism or at least we should suspect racism. Sounds dumb, doesn't it? Maybe there are black people in jail because of a racist police force, but I bet there are plenty there on merit, we won't know until we find the details of EACH SPECIFIC CASE.

      You know full well that McDonalds enacted that 20 minute rule in response to the behaviour of a specific group of people who were taking advantage of their generosity in that particular restaurant. It is not a rule in other establishments because they didn't have a problem with the behaviour of that group of people. Honestly can't see how you can't see this!! To say it is discriminatory is true, but it is valid discrimination. If I walk down the street and a group of youths attack me and run away one week and I see them the next week, I will call the police. I have discriminated against them, yes, but because of their bad behaviour, not because of the colour of their skin, which is what you are horribly insinuating.

      Your theory of racism possibly being a factor explains what here exactly? How have McDonalds been racist in this specific incident?

  5. I had this experience at the city library once with this Chinese elderly, I remember he just cut in front of me with this look on his face that says " I have the right to"

    but then again, this kind of behaviour could exist in other culture as well. Just two weeks I was waiting to get on a ferry, and behold, there were this middle aged English Couple ( I can tell they were English by their accent) who brazenly cut in line too, and when I looked at what they were doing, they husband just give me this vicious look back like I was the one who did something wrong. They are very lucky they are in a country like New Zealand, where people generally do not like to make a scene about this type of thing, but then again, they probably knew this, what a bunch of dicks.