South Korea is a culturally rich country that has gained popularity all over the world for its food, music, tech industry, and most notably, its entertainment industry. But as we explore South Korea’s social scene, an integral part of their lifestyle emerges – the Room Salon culture.
Room Salons are exclusive drinking establishments primarily designed for affluent businessmen and their clients. They offer expensive drinks, food, and music while providing clients with a personalized experience. However, 강남풀싸롱 are also a space where sex work and prostitution take place. While prostitution is illegal in South Korea, these establishments are considered legal since sex work is hidden under the guise of companionship and customer service.
In this blog, we will explore the Room Salon culture in South Korea, its societal impact, and discuss if it still holds relevance in the modern era.
Origins of Room Salons
The origin of Room Salons dates back to South Korea’s post-war period, where a post-war reconstruction policy opened the doors for foreign investments and international business partnerships in the country. As a result, foreign business clients began coming to South Korea, and Room Salons emerged as a place to entertain and engage in business with these foreign clients.
The traditional Room Salons are dimly lit, private rooms required to be booked in advance, and hostess bars that serve drinks and food to clients. They are often located in upscale neighborhoods and cater to wealthy business clients who can afford their high prices.
Room Salon Culture Today
Today, South Korea has evolved into a global leader in the cosmetic industry, electronics, and urban architectural design. The once wartime economy now boasts a thriving business industry, and Room Salons have expanded into a multifaceted business stratum. These establishments have turned into spaces not only designed for clients to entertain business partners but also to socialize and connect with potential employees or bosses.
While these places have become more sophisticated and do not rely entirely on sex work, prostitution is still prevalent in Room Salons. It is common for clients to receive sexual favors from hostesses or engage in paid sex with independent sex workers who are hired to work in these establishments. This type of behavior in Room Salons is often referred to as “Skinship,” and many establishments allow it.
Room Salons and South Korean Society
Room Salons play a significant role in South Korean society, catering to high net worth individuals. Spending time in Room Salons is a sign of social status and an effective way to entertain clients and network with influential people. Room Salons create a highly professional environment where business deals can be discussed while also catering to the individual needs of their clients. However, this culture also puts pressure on women who work in it, leading to harmful societal norms and expectations.
The Room Salon culture has a deep connection to Confucian values, where hierarchy and respect play a vital role in social interactions. Men in South Korean culture are expected to be the breadwinners of the family and maintain a certain level of status in society; hence they often entertain their colleagues, bosses, and clients as a way to improve or maintain their social status.
Room Salons provide a platform for men to display their wealth, status and sometimes play a crucial role in business deals.
However, this social activity has been perceived with mixed feelings in modern South Korean society. The emergence of feminism and the #MeToo movement has brought attention to how female hostesses are treated in those establishments. Reports of sexual harassment or exploitation of hostesses and the pressure to offer sexual services have brought criticism from the public. Critics argue that these rooms promote objectification and a culture of sexual commodification. In response, feminist groups and the government have sought to regulate the industry to protect hostesses from exploitation.
Despite modernization and developments in South Korea, Room Salons continue to thrive in the country, albeit with some changes. The Room Salon culture is still relevant as it creates a space for networking, business deals, and socializing. However, it also perpetuates and reinforces patriarchal societal norms that objectify women and promote male entitlement. It is important to acknowledge the impact that this culture has on both women and men and work towards creating a society where all are treated with respect and dignity.