This post, Sex in Korea, is probably not what you are thinking it will be, but it will definitely crush any illusions you might have from the world of Korean dramas or the world of Korean idols where Koreans just don’t have sex, let alone kiss or date– except for in Soulmate and 12 Men in A Year, my two favorite Korean dramas, because they were so real and honest rather than JUST being ridiculously romantic.
So, let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.
Prostitution, or “host and hostess” culture, is still very popular in Korea.
(I’ll also talk about clubs, nights, and “spas”, because I think its important to know about them– and the differences between them, before going to them.)
Last summer I lived in Nonhyun-dong, which is an entertainment district right next to the business district of Yeoksam-dong.
I lived just a block or two behind this building:
How convenient for all those businessmen next door– and for me, because we were all just minutes away from tons of karaokes, restaurants, bars, and clubs…
Literally just minutes.
I remember being SO surprised by the abrupt change from my quiet street to Gangnam Road’s busy street to the bright, crowded street behind it as my dongsaeng showed me around Nonhyun-dong for the first time:
However, my oppa in America actually told me not to live in Nonhyun-dong, because it was his old neighborhood, and he knew exactly what it was all about.
(But, when I finally arrived in Korea and had to find a place to live, it was my best bet after I spent an entire day in a hot car on a hot day with a NOT so hot Realtor and didn’t find many places in Gangnam that fit my budget AND my lifestyle.)
At first I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings, but after I talked to another oppa that I met in Korea who said he hated Nonhyun-dong because it was a “red-light” district, I started to.
… I started noticing the prolonged glances from businessman and ajusshis late at night when I was dressed up and waiting for a friend to meet me and just happened to be on the street corner of Exit #3 (the exact place with the holes in the wall from above); or, the advances and invitations to “hang out” from them when I was on my way to the local convenient store to get a half pint of ice cream– again, always late at night.
And, when I finally saw a girl in my neighborhood wearing very Very VERY short shorts and heels, I realized just what my oppas meant.
Nightlife in Korea– and the rest of the world, is all about pleasure. After all, after a boring day at school or a hard day at work, people want pleasure. In Korea, pleasure means cafes, restaurants, and bars with delicious food and often expensive drinks, as well as crowded clubs, quirky karaokes, and– of course, sex.
Hooking up happens, even in Korea.
However, a vast majority of Koreans live with their parents, and some continue to do so even after marriage. This makes going home together a little hard to do. So, that’s why there are love motels that are open 24 hours a day.
However, pleasure is a part of every sexual relationship in Korea, both casual sexual relationships and serious sexual relationships. So, there are people who are one night stands. There are also people who are casual lovers, and a person who is a casual lover is known as a “섹스 파트너,” a borrowed word with a questionable connotation that literally means sex partner. Then, there are people who are more serious lovers, known as aein, which is a word also used for a boyfriend, namjachingu, or girlfriend, yojachingu.
(It’s good be aware of the different relationship statuses that exist in Korea. That way, you will also be aware of your own status in a relationship in Korea and avoid getting confused, embarrassed, or hurt.)
One of my Korean girl friends told me that she lost her virginity in a love motel that was actually very close to her university. Her ex-boyfriend took her there to celebrate their 100th day together, but it wasn’t exactly what she had been expecting…
So, just so you will know what to expect, check out this video on love motels; and, after watching it, I just realized that I stayed in one last summer!
On the other hand, sex is also a topic that is approached very differently in Korea, especially once you get outside of prostitution or nightlife.
In Korea, sex is also seen as procreation– a natural way to build families, which are a very important part of Korean culture. So, on TV and in the real, you will often hear people ask married couples about their honeymoon and their married life after it. In fact, birth, stamina, and even whether or not a couple had sex that morning is a topic of frequent conversation– at least among older generations and in the context of marriage.
For example, on Korean variety show The Human Condition, a cast member had recently gotten married. He arrived late to that morning’s opening, and several of his fellow cast members asked him whether or not he was late because “a good thing had happened that morning,” or “if he had been busy working on making his second generation.”
Jeju Island even has an outdoor sculpture park devoted to sex!
For more on Jeju Island’s “Love Land,” go here:
In addition, 속궁합, sokgoonghap, is a word used to describe whether or not a man and woman “match” in bed; this matching is usually done BEFORE marriage, which might explain why so many Koreans (at least more than I would have expected) have shotgun weddings.
My ex-boyfriend– Korean, once said something about having babies first and getting married later, too. I literally lifted my hand and told him to put a ring on it. He got upset and asked me why I didn’t want to have his babies, and I was thinking to myself, “Are we really having this conversation?“
We’re not even supposed to talk about or have
But, for more on sex in Korea, including topics from pornography to “pet boys” to date rape, check out this gritty documentary series on Dramafever.com:
Finally, learn about sex and make an informed decision about having (or not having) sex, whether you choose to do so in America or in Korea.