Korean Nail Salon Owners Unhappy with New York Times Exposé

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Korean nail salon owners in New York are voicing their displeasure over a lengthy New York Times report published on May 7 that delves into the exploitation and abuse of manicurists.

The in-depth investigation noted the prejudice and “stark ethnic hierarchy” imposed by Korean nail salon owners in particular, along with issues of wage theft, physical abuse and desperate conditions that are so prevalent in the nail industry. Part two of the investigation, “Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers,” looked at the potential health risks that nail salon workers faced due to a number of harmful ingredients in nail products.

Sang-ho Lee, president of the Korean American Nail Salon Association, told Yonhap News Agency that he plans to send the NY Times a letter of protest asking them for an official apology, as well as a corrective story.

“We are strongly protesting that (the newspaper) looked into only about 150 salons, which is an extremely small part of a total of some 6,000 shops, and carried a biased report that only highlighted extremely bad parts about them,” Lee said.

“Most Korean-run businesses are not engaged in such nonsense [sic] things as racial discrimination and ethnic caste system,” he added.

On Sunday, just a few days after the NY Times report was published, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered emergency measures to crack down on unfair labor practices and health hazards nail salon workers face in the New York State area. A new multiagency task force will conduct salon-by-salon investigations and eventually create new rules to protect workers based on findings, Cuomo said in a statement.

Some of the new measures include requiring salons to post signs informing workers of their rights, provide masks and gloves to reduce health risks from chemicals and regularly ventilate the salon to reduce fumes. Salons will also be required to be bonded in order to ensure that workers are paid if salon owners are found guilty of wage theft. These emergency measures will eventually become permanent within a few months.

“We will not stand idly by as workers are deprived of their hard-earned wages and robbed of their most basic rights,” Cuomo said.


Featured image via Shuttershock

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