What Women Want: South Korean Host Bars Rise in Popularity

Posted by Codi Hauka & filed under Pop Culture.

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Photo courtesy of thegrandnarrative.com

Living in Japan now, I’ve seen a number of “massage parlours”, which can genuinely be for a good massage (sometimes during the day, at least) and others that explicitly advertise for more and open at around 2 am. The downtown core of my city is enveloped by the pervasive red-light district, with women in erokawaii (erotic cute) outfits asking you to follow them beyond the sort of “home-free” zone of sanctity of the covered mall walkways. A series of dance clubs, bath houses, parlours, and hostess bars make up the densely packed buildings surrounding the mall.

This is nothing new. Various forms of prostitution have been around as long as sex has, yet the former has remained both taboo and seedy in its tutelage despite the many cultural revolutions and societal transformations that have occurred. What is new, however, is the openness in which males have been exhibiting themselves for a price and with which women are throwing down the cash for such an experience. Enter the host bar: an increasingly popular way to whet your neglected erotic palette.

The existence of host bars has been especially prevalent in South Korea, in part thanks to the economic rise of the country over the past 50 years, enabling more women to ascend the status quo ladder in stride. With more work came less play, leaving women and men alike feeling emotionally and physically devoid in exchange for long working hours. At host bars, women can not only enjoy the company of an immaculately well-groomed South Korean-Adonis, but they also get to choose which male they enjoy their evening with out of a veritable selection of South Korean-Adonis-types. In the venue of an all night bar, women select their “host” for a price, and depending on the rules of the establishment, they can do anything from talking, karaoke, to sex (although not an official offer, but on the table).

Photo courtesy of ameblo.jp

The women, for the most part, are high rollers: A lady who can afford frivolity and excess in every shape and form of a Louis Vuitton collection, and almost definitely one whose appearance would not invite the notion that she can’t get a date. They want the same thing as anyone else, they just happen to have bigger wallets than most.

The openness of both the existence of host bars and the powerful women who frequent them has signaled a move towards the cusp of a cultural revolution, according to some analysts. In the midst of a society so swept up in working, growing business and a burgeoning economy, it’s no surprise that the loneliness and neglect felt by both men and women has found a profitable outlet.

The issue of prostitution, sexism, misogyny, and liberty over our bodies unsurprisingly continues to see attrition from both sides of the argument. In a society that is too busy to notice a missed lunch however, that more people starved of intimacy are willing to pay for a way to get exactly they want, should come as a surprise either.

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