What’s going on in a Gangnam Host Bar at 2am? (Part 2)

( Source )

Part 2 in the series from the Seoul Shinmun, kindly translated by Marilyn; for Part 1 and a wider discussion of what “Host Bars” are exactly, see here. Meanwhile, yes, I realize that those are actually Japanese hosts above, but then I’m afraid images of their less brazen Korean counterparts are rather harder to come by!^^

새벽 2 강남호빠 무슨 일이… “누나, ‘민짜원해? 있기야 있지”… 여성 탈선무법지대’ / What’s going on in a Kangnam ‘ho-bba’ at 2 a.m…“Noona, do you want ‘minjja’? Of course we have it!”…A lawless area of female deviance

지난달 말 서울 논현동 유흥가. 새벽 2시 무렵 우성아파트 사거리 일대를 지나 한쪽 골목으로 들어서자 현란하게 네온사인을 밝힌 유흥주점이 줄지어 나타났다. 이 중에서 룸살롱과 호스트바가 ‘1, 2부 형식’(저녁에는 룸살롱, 새벽에는 호스트바)으로 운영된다는 K업소를 찾았다.

At the end of last month in Seoul’s Nonhyeon-dong adult entertainment district, after passing the area around the Woo-seong Apartment Complex intersection at about 2 a.m. and entering an alley to one side, adult entertainment bars with flashy neon signs appeared in rows.  Among these, we went to ‘K’ business, which was being operated as a room salon and host bar in a ‘1, 2 part form’ (room salon in the evening, host bar late at night).

(Photo caption: Entrance to Seoul Samseong-dong host bar at 1 p.m. on the 18th.  Four young men who look like hosts are saying goodbye to two women)

내부로 들어서자 문 열린 객실 틈으로 40대 중년 남성들과 업소 아가씨들이 섞여 앉아 술잔을 기울이는 모습이 눈에 들어왔다. 바로 옆방에서는 20대 초반으로 보이는 앳된 남성들이 30~40대 여성들에게 입으로 안주를 먹여 주거나 윗옷을 벗고 춤을 추는 등 낯뜨거운 광경이 펼쳐졌다. 같은 공간에 남녀 접대부들이 섞여 있는 모습이 낯설었다. 이 가게의 1부 영업을 관리한다는 한 실장은 “1, 2부를 확실히 구분지어 영업한다. 업소 아가씨들이 남성 접대부들과 같이 일하는 것을 불편하게 여겨 그만두는 일이 잦기 때문”이라고 귀띔했다.

Upon entering, through the crack of an opened door middle-aged men in their 40s and the business’ young women sitting together and pouring drinks could be seen.  In the very next room, baby-faced men who looked like they were in their early 20s feeding snacks to women in their 30s or 40s or taking off their shirts and dancing, and other embarrassing scenes could be observed unfolding.  Male and female hosts mixing in the same space was unusual.  A director who runs this business’ first part said “We run the two parts very separately.  It is because the business’ young women consider it uncomfortable to work with male hosts and so often quit.”

(Map of host bars in Gangnam-3-Gu)

팁은 시간 3만원 / Tips around 30,000 per hour

이곳에서는 양주 한병에 기본 18만원을 내야 한다. 고급 호스트바에 비해 상대적으로 저렴해 일부 주부들과 회사원 사이에 ‘부담 없이 놀기 좋은 장소’란 입소문이 난 곳이다. 5분 남짓 기다리자 ‘모델’, ‘보이’ 등으로 불리는 ‘박스’(10명 안팎의 호스트들로 꾸려진 팀)가 일렬로 들어왔다. ‘선수’(호스트를 지칭하는 은어)들은 업소에 상주하지 않고 손님이 찾을 경우 다른 곳에서 대기하다가 전화를 받고 오는 일명 ‘보도’ 형태로 운영되고 있었다. 남성 호스트에게 지불되는 팁은 시간당 3만원. 비교적 ‘저렴한’ 가격 때문에 오후 9시 이후에는 주부와 회사원, 새벽에는 여대생부터 유흥업소 종사자들까지 다양한 부류의 여성들이 찾는다고 했다.

Here, one must pay at least ₩180,000 for a bottle of Western alcohol.  Compared to top-level host bars, this is relatively cheap so it has gained a reputation among ordinary housewives and office workers as a “good place to have fun without a burden.”  After waiting over 5 minutes, a “box” (a team of 10 or so hosts) called “Model”, “Boy”, [Marilyn – I guess these are names of different box -?] and so on entered in a row.  “Seonsu” (the designated slang term for hosts [lit. “players”, as on a sports team]) who aren’t stationed at a business but are standing by so that when customers visit they receive a phone call and come, are managed as “bodo.”  Male hosts receive a tip of ₩30,000 per hour.  Because of the comparatively “cheap” price, housewives and office workers after 9pm, and at dawn, diverse types of women from university students to adult entertainment business professionals said they come here.

선수들 가운데는 고교생 티를 벗지 못한 앳된 얼굴도 보였다. “화끈한 준이에요.”, “끝나게 노는 현우예요.” 이런 투의 자기소개가 이어졌다. 두 명을 ‘초이스’한 뒤 이야기를 나눴다. (source, below)

Among the seonsu, there were babyfaces who haven’t yet shed their high school student look.  “I am Wild Joon”, “I am Hyeon-woo who plays hard.”  The self-introductions continued in this kind of tone.  Two people talked with us after “choice” [Marilyn – choosing ceremony?].

“더 어린 친구는 없나?”

“You don’t have any younger friends?”

누나 ‘민짜’(미성년) 좋아해? 있기야 있지. 아까 두 번째 애도 올해 수능 봤어.”

“Does noona like minjja (underage)?  Of course we have it!  The second kid just now also took the college entrance exam this year.”

4년째 호스트 생활을 하고 있다는 20대 남성 A씨는 “미성년자는 주로 업소보다 보도에 많다.”면서 “간혹 여자 손님 중에 미성년자도 있다.”고 털어놨다.

Mr. A, a man in his 20s who has been a host for four years, confessed, “There are usually more underage at bodo than at businesses.”

이른바 ‘2차’가 가능한지 물었다. “에이, 알면서…. 누나가 맘에 들어 해서 좋아. 근데 이게 시간당 계산되는 거라서….”

This reporter asked if the so-called “second stage” were possible.  “Come on, you already know … I like noona so that’s fine. But it’s an hourly-calculated thing, so…”

(Source)

일부 룸안에서 즉석 성매매 / As far as prostitution on the spot in some rooms

한 20대 선수는 눈치를 살피며 말꼬리를 흐렸다. 2차 비용에 대한 이야기인 듯싶어 “50만원 정도면 어때?”라고 물었더니 고개를 끄덕였다. 간혹 룸 안에서 즉석 성매매가 이뤄지는 경우도 있다고 했다.

A seonsu in his twenties trailed off while watching for a reaction.  It seemed to be talk about the price of a second stage, so this reporter asked “How about ₩500,000 or so?” and he nodded.  He said there are sometimes cases in which on-the-spot prostitution occurs in a room.

그는 이어 “경찰 단속이 뜨면 내가 웨이터라고 말하거나 누나랑 아는 사이라고 하면 돼.”라며 손님으로 가장한 취재진을 안심시켰다.

He then gave comfort to the reporter disguised as a customer, saying, “If the police come in, all I have to do is say I’m a waiter or that noona and I know each other.”

한참을 ‘놀다’ 일어서려는 취재진에게 한 선수가 투정 부리듯 말했다. “누나, 단속은 걱정 안 해도 돼요. 다 방법이 있어요.”

To the reporter who had “played” for a good while and was standing up to leave, a seonsu complained, “Noona, you don’t have to worry about a crackdown.  Everything has a solution.”

(Links to be provided as posts go up: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4)

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19 thoughts on “What’s going on in a Gangnam Host Bar at 2am? (Part 2)

  1. Holy spectacular claims, Batman!

    I love the “men who appear to be hosts” photo – does it look a lot like a bunch of people leaving a coffee shop to anyone else? Also, how come the prices at this “inexpensive” host bar are so much higher than what the first-hand account James linked to last time said they paid? Finally, while I’m sure there’s a few teenage boys working in host clubs, I’m not really buying the idea that there’s much of a market for “mija” or that there would be many actually underage boys working in the clubs (as opposed to adult men who look young).

    Basically, I’ve come to the boring conclusion that the Seoul Shinmun is playing fast and loose with the truth.

    • LOL….

      But they are super-super-sexy boys leaving a coffee-shop (well, they might be under all the pixelization).

      I do love, however, the graphic with the Ajjumah with the Bride of Frankenstein hair!

      • Indeed. This is, after all, an industry in which many things are best left up to the imagination…

        More seriously though, it’s the map that got to me personally: jolly decent of 90% of the host bar owners to locate their premises in perfect ovals like that.

  2. In the section about underaged hosts there is an untranslated sentence to the effect that they sometimes get underage female clients too…it amuses me that they use the term 보도 for freelance male hosts since the 보 of that phrase refers to a part of the female anatomy…(I believe the 도 is for auction)

  3. I dunno this is making me want to go check one out. Of course I don’t want to encounter any sexual stuff but it has me really curious. I have known about business rooms for men, but ones for women is completely new to me. Thank you for writing about this. It makes me look at housewives and 20-something women a bit more differently (like they are not as innocent as they look).

    I look forward to the future parts of this series.

    • Glad to hear it, and yeah, they were completely new to me too. I hope I get the possibility of interviewing a host myself one day (as Gomushin Girl had demonstrated, one can’t rely on “real” reporters after all!).

      • Man, it’s so unfair. Whoever did the research here got paid to go to a host bar . . . where’s my host bar reserach grant!?

        However, James, if you’re serious, I might be able to contact a few former and current hosts.

        • Thanks, and yeah, very much so: although I do often produce my own original stuff, I’m still very parasitic overly reliant on newspapers and journal articles.

          Actually I already tried making my own news last year, by interviewing the producer of the Vagina Monologues in Busan. Only once I got home though, did I realize that transcribing a 1 hour 30 mins interview on my CASSETTE dictaphone would take me at least 9 hours…

          • Doh! I once did eight hours of interviews with an informant, and even with a digital recorder it took me at least two hours of transcribing for every one hour of recording. It was a nightmare I vowed never to repeat. There are companies that will transcribe for you, however . . .

            • After buying a digital recorder (of course), I think given my time and resources, then I’d just upload the file(s) to the blog, only transcribing brief, important bits. Hopefully there’s some good user-friendly programs out there for editing audio files that I could use on them first though.

  4. Pingback: Apa yang terjadi di gangnam host bar pada jam 2 pagi (part 2) « Sashalicia's Blog

  5. Pingback: “Host Clubs” in Japan & Korea « RickMcCharles.com

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