My Brilliant Korea

The booking club

Blogging | September 26, 2011

My wrist did not see it coming.

One moment it was swinging happily by my side, the next it was locked in an intense battle with the hand of an unknown man.

“Hey!” I said, startled.

“Let me go!”

But the man, dressed in a bar staff uniform, would not give up so easily.

Looking into my eyes, he again pulled my wrist towards him and attempted to drag me back down the stairs I had just ascended.

The nerve of him!

Unless…

Could it be an honest mistake?

Could he possibly have mistaken me, in this club packed with Koreans, for somebody else?

Or were his intentions genuinely more sinister than I dared to imagine?

The whole thing was over in seconds.

My wrist was released back into my custody, the man ran down the stairs, I ran up them, and back to where my boyfriend and his friends were sitting in a booth.

The six of us had paid over $600 for the right to sit and drink in that booth for the evening, and, while at first it seemed like an extravagant expense, suddenly it felt like a value-for-money port in the club’s storm.

“The strangest thing just happened to me,” I said, sliding in next to my boyfriend, Ash.

I detailed the incident.

Ash frowned.

“That really is strange,” he replied.

My eyes scanned the dance floor, the bar, and the nearby booths.

I could not put my finger on it… but something didn’t feel right about this place.

“Look at that booth,” I said, tipping my head to the left.

“There are twelve people sitting there, but they’re all paired off.

“No women are talking to women; no men are talking to men.

“It’s just boy, girl, boy, girl… like, six individual dates are going on at the same table”.

A scuffle in the corner of the room caught my eye.

I watched as another staff member grabbed the wrist of a Korean girl, teetering in high heels and a mini skirt, and dragged her from one side of the room to the other.

“Anneeyyoooooo (nooooooo),” she pleaded, as she disappeared around a corner.

“Did you see that? That’s exactly what that guy tried to do to me!” I exclaimed

“Julia’s gotta tell us what’s going on here”.

Julia, a bite-sized Korean-American, had orchestrated our entry into this exclusive, Koreans-only Seoul club.

A couple of hours earlier she had barked at the bouncers who had initially denied us entry (on the grounds that we were foreign).

“Don’t give me that “no foreigners” crap,” Julia said, in perfect Korean.

“I’ve been here before, my friend works here, and you’re going to let us in”.

Julia, I felt, would be the woman with the answers.

I motioned her over.

“This is a booking club,” Julia explained.

A booking club?

“The deal is this,” she said.

“Men come here and they pay for a booth. When the men feel like it, they tell the staff they want to meet women, and so the staff grab women and drag them to the booths.

“Basically, it’s all about money. If the men like the girls the staff bring to the table, they’ll give a big tip.

“If they don’t like the girls, they’ll give a small tip or no tip at all”.

I was fascinated.

“The men say what kind of girl they’re looking for- tall, short, curvy, long hair, and the staff find a girl matching that description”, Julia continued.

It seemed unlikely that anyone had requested a curly-headed, green-eyed Australian.

I glanced up just in time to see a girl shoved into a neighbouring booth, next to a man in glasses and a striped shirt.

The man leaned towards the girl, his face apprehensive, as he scanned the files in his mind for an interesting opener.

But even if a brilliant ice-breaker occurred to him, he was never given the chance to say it.

The girl glanced up for the briefest moment to run her eyes over the man, and, clearly unimpressed with what she saw, buried her head back into her mobile phone.

After a few seconds she stood up and, without even an acknowledgement, left the table.

The man looked forlorn.

“The guys always get a bottle of whisky and unlimited beer for the price of the booth,” Julia continued.

“If they like a girl, they give her whisky.

“If they don’t like a girl, they give her beer”.

“A lot of the girls don’t seem to want to be dragged from table to table,” I said to Julia, who rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, right,” she said.

“The girls know what this place is.

“There’s a reason they come here”.

The girls were not sex workers, but just regular Korean women- generally students and professionals, looking for (or pretending that they were not looking for) a nice man to date.

It was a club culture that, in my opinion, would never fly in Australia.

“Yeah, an Australian girl would wallop you if you tried to drag her around a club and shove her into a booth,” Ash piped in.

Not to mention your average Aussie bloke.

How would he feel about a girl being shoved, seemingly against her will, into a booth next to him?

Australians, I decided, preferred a more organic way of meeting somebody- at a barbeque, through friends, that sort of thing.

It was the better way. The more successful way.

“How effective is this method of meeting someone, anyway? I mean, really?” I continued.

“I mean, take this guy over here for example…” I said, trailing off.

I was stunned.

The stripy-shirted man, who had been discarded just a couple of minutes before, had found, what appeared to be, true love.

With an arm casually draped around the shoulder of a strange woman, the man looked pleased as punch.

The woman giggled and whispered into the man's ear, as I strained to see if her glass had been filled with whisky or beer.

Whisky.

This was what it was all about.

It was the sweet smell of booking club success.


Comments

1. Nikki on September 26, 2011

Geez. Thought you'd been caught up in a crime novel.

Any Comments?

About Blythe Seinor

When Blythe was a journalism student at the Queensland University of Technology she interviewed the former Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid.
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