Monday, August 10, 2009

Room Salons in South Korea: Who's Going?

Here's the (paraphrases) question:

I am American in the US dating Korean Guy. He goes to Korea for business and drinks every night with friends, but not his boss. I figured it was like going to family restaurant or something along that line. He also said he has to go to karaoke room salon. He said its nothing to worry about and that its where professional singers come and teach you to sing karaoke. This does not compute to me. Can you please tell me the truth about room salons and if there are really salons for singing lessons? I just want to know if this is really what this is about.

I doubt it's a family restaurant. I'm sure he's probably just going to a hof or barbeque joint with his buddies. That seems harmless enough. Furthermore, it's not my place to point the finger at your boyfriend. I think the fact that your boyfriend told you about the places suggests some sort of innocence (or perhaps ignorance). I can, however, shed a little light on the rest of the question.

Rather than talking about the details of room salons and what they really are, let me offer an extremely abbreviated version. Room salons are technically "singing rooms" where "doumi girls" or female attendants flirt, tease and encourage you -the customer- to continue buying overpriced booze. The following picture is not what typically happens in these places.

If the men are feeling frisky or the host for the evening needs to impress his potential clients, the party can continue on to a "second-place". It could be a whiskey bar, but at this point in the night, drinking is not the goal. They'll usually skip the bars and head straight to a love motel. Of course, the girls can't just leave the room salon, so a price must be negotiated and if it's right (usually 300,000-500,000 won per girl), the girls inform their boss and transform from "attendants" to "escorts". At the end of it all, the customers have paid hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars, the girls give a cut to their boss and the night is over.

I'm not sure how much of a cut they get, but I do know that there are room salon girls called "10% girls" who are apparently the best of the best and only have to give 10% of their "extra" earnings to the salon. I assume everyone else must pay more than that back to the salon.

I gotta admit that I laughed out loud when I read the part about singing lessons. The questioner certainly has a boyfriend with a creative mind, but unfortunately, he didn't use the Korean businessman playbook. Korean women and wives know what's happening at these places and most of them hate the thought of their husbands or boyfriends frequenting the establishments, so the men must be careful in how they present their evening at the room salons.

Rule 1: Always say how much you hate the places.

If you admit that you have fun or enjoy going to these places, then it's over. To women and especially significant others, men must always say how much they hate the places and some might even go so far as to acknowledge that employing women is such a manner is wrong. Whether they're telling the truth is their own business.

Rule 2: Blame your boss. Even if you went with friends, blame the boss because he "forced you" to go.

This is probably the most common excuse. It should be said that Korea is an extremely collective society and doing things together (especially in business) is very common. I have not worked in a Korean business setting, but my wife and friends have and they always complained about how forceful the bosses could be about eating and drinking together. All Koreans understand this system which is why it is a great excuse for men (and women for that matter). "My boss made me go." or "What was I supposed to say, honey? You want me to succeed in the company, right?" Of course, men go on their own just as much as with their bosses, but the boss just happens to be the perfect scapegoat whether they were there or not. For instance, I knew several young businessmen who were given a company credit card for entertaining potential clients. Each employee got a 300,000 won allowance per client. What they would do is inflate the client numbers and go out together to room salons with two or three clients rather than the eight to ten they claimed to be entertaining. Why? Their "boss made them".

Rule 3: If you're the boss, then stress the fact that by entertaining clients (or co-workers) at the salons, you can make a lot of money in return (or increase team cooperation).

My personal favorite here. I was recently talking to a gentlemen who looked especially tired one morning. His eyes were red and hair a disheveled mess. I asked him what happened and he told him about his previous evening at the room salons and how he spent over 4,000,000 won. I was blown away by the amount. How could he justify it to his wife? Well first of all, he has (like many Korean men I know) a secret bank account which his wife does not know about. I should say that not all "secret accounts" are for room salons though. Some men use it to treat friends to dinner because they know their wife would protest the gesture. Second of all, he claimed that if he spent four-grand entertaining his clients for the night, it meant that he would make twenty-grand in sales. "It's like a necessary evil", he said.

So, who goes to these places? Everyone. Well, not everyone, but it's safe to say that a large majority of Korean businessmen have spent many blurred nights in these establishments. And if you think I'm exaggerating, then consider that nearly 80% of married peninsula-based Korean men have admitted to having an affair at some point during their marriage while only 17% of females admit to the same. That disparity suggests that men are going somewhere for their kicks and I doubt they're all going to Korean housewife hookers. And if that number doesn't do it for you, then consider the fact that Korea has managed to add girls into nearly every public entertainment facility and that current President Lee Myung-bak used to own a building where prostitution was thriving. There is a certain subtle, yet widespread acceptance of these establishments, so I wouldn't necessarily presume that you're boyfriend is doing anything shady...yet.

I have also talked about this to married women and all of them choose to believe that their husband is simply working late. That may or may not be true, but they don't see the value in asking too many questions about it. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.


The Sanity Inspector said...

Sounds quite sybaritic.

staralfurious said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

i think the author did pretty good job explaining roomsalons in korea, but has missed some important part. if you want a more candid view of roomsalons, then imagine a several half naked women dancing with half naked men of above picture and men grope the women as they are pleased. every compartment in roomsalons is equiped with toilet where men can have sex or oral sex if they want. Some huge roomsalons have motel rooms in it.
We call these 'fullsalon', since men can get 'full package' in those places. According to national statistics, 89% of korean men have visited roomsalons at least once, and whooping 61% of them went to the 2nd round, which basically means going love motel and having sex with the young girls they have cavorted with. Funny thing is this country hasn't abolished the adulatory law. If you can't believe these statistics, follow the link. (it is written in Korean though, and the satatistics is 1999's, but today there are more roomsalons than there were in 1999.)
What more surprising is that some of korean men thinks having sex with women working in sex industry is not cheating but a essential part of their social life, excusing themselves by saying that they are the victims of their boss or clients.

moneytalksbullshtwalks said...

What difference does it make what these men do in a foreign country? Why does it concern Americans so much what goes on in the other parts of the world? It's pathetic knowing that Americans think they were all born with the right to judge and police people of other nations yet they themselves live the most disastrous, filthy, adulterous life styles. No wonder the world hates U.S. Have you ever studied the pornographic industry in the U.S? And how many of them are minors? Exploitations of minors and sick and disgusting almost unimaginable sexual acts are done right here in the U.S. And look at what the feminists in this country has done. U.S. Has long been corrupt and defiled, or you could say people in the U.S have enjoyed too much freedom. So before you think you can stick your nose at somebody else's business, clean up your own act. Because when you indulge in the same act and accuse others, it only makes you look like an arrogant jackass. And if you have guts to accuse women of other nations, first tell your fat lazy American bitches to lose weight and get a job.

Unknown said...

Hi! What is going on in the separate room in traditional Korean restaurant in South Korea? My boyfriend called me and told that he is going to have dinner in authentic Korean restaurant. Nobody speaks English there. But they gave hime a separate room to have dinner. He is on business-trip, alone, and I cann't imagine what is a fun to have dinner in separate room. Such restaurants are the same as room salon? Why do they give strangers separate room? He told me that it is their tradition... isn't it?

Unknown said...

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