My Brilliant Korea

Warning: This post contains references to sex

Blogging | October 25, 2011

If you have lived or travelled in Korea for any length of time, chances are you will eventually find yourself asking the question: Am I currently staying in a love motel?

To answer this question accurately, I refer you to my own personal checklist.

1. Is there a box of tissues located on either side of the bed?

2. Does your room smell like cigarette smoke?

3. Is there a red light and/ or disco light option above the bed?

4. Are the bedroom and bathroom separated by a glass wall, allowing you to see directly into the shower?

5. Can you see the toilet from the bed?

6. Were you handed two (small) condoms with your room key?

7. Can you hear anyone else having sex right now?

8. Does the window have shutters instead of blinds and / or curtains?

9. Is pornography freely available in your room?

10. Does it feel like night time, even though it is day time?

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, chances are you are indeed staying in a love motel.

So, what is a love motel? And why does Korea have so many of them?

A love motel, put quite simply, is a motel where people (specifically unwed Koreans) go to make some of the love.

Most Koreans live at home with their parents and maintain the appearance of virginity until they marry, so love motels are a way for young couples to be covertly intimate.

They can choose to stay in a love motel for a night, an afternoon, or for just four hours (if that’s how you roll).

Love motel rooms range in price from around $25 a night to upwards of $150 a night.

I have stayed in the cheapest kind of love motel, the most expensive kind, and many other kinds in between.

To be honest, some of my fondest memories in Korea have been in love motels.

Now, before things hit MA15+, I should clarify, I haven’t been staying in love motels willy nilly.

In fact, I never stayed in a love motel until I met Ash.

Since Ash and I started going steady, we have been travelling long distances to see each other and love motels have proven to be an affordable form of accommodation at various midway points.

They are also quite conveniently located, as you will often find gluts of them around university districts.

The first love motel I stayed in was in Cheonan, a city about an hour outside of Seoul.

Ash had been sent there for work, so his school had booked him a room for the week.

He texted me.

“I think the place I’m staying in is a love motel,” he said.

“How do you know?” I replied.

“It smells like cigarette smoke and anal sex. Also there’s a red light above the bed.

“Do you want to visit?”

It sounded exotic and dangerous.

I did want to visit.

Ash met me at the train station, and we scurried along the chilly streets before bundling ourselves into the love motel and cracking open a bottle of red wine (to match the red light).

I stretched out my legs on the huge, cloud-like bed, while Ash smoked and paced back and forth next to the open window.

Snow fell outside.

It felt like a scene from a foreign, sub-titled movie.

I lifted my hands to my face and pressed an imaginary button.

“Click”, I said.

“What are you doing?” Ash replied.

“I just took a picture in my mind,” I said.

“I want to remember this moment”.

Other love motel experiences have not been quite so worthy of a fictional Polaroid- like the night we stayed in $25 love motel in my university town of Janghowon.

“So this was definitely the only love motel in town?” Ash asked me, eyeing the dank room suspiciously.

I thought it was.

Later that night, as we tossed and turned, unable to sleep on the thick plastic sheet, and with dirty air conditioner air blowing up our noses, Ash asked me again:

“So this is really the only motel in town?”

I ignored his question and coughed.

“I don’t think that air conditioner has been cleaned since 1974,” I said.

My compaint was interrupted by a moan through the wall.

Then a squeal.

Then several squeals.

“Oh oh oh oh oh ohhhhhhh,” came the noise.

I pressed my ear up to the wall.

“Oh my God,” I whispered.

“They’re having sex!

Ash sighed.

“Yes, they are,” he said.

I listened for a moment longer.

“Do you think she’s enjoying it?” I asked.

Ash thought she was, while I was less sure- either way, the noises continued for quite some time and I managed to have approximately one hour and 43 minutes of sleep.

In conclusion, I recommend that if you are going to stay in a love motel, you limit your choices only to hotels that charge upwards of $35 a night.

Paying a little extra will buy you non-plastic sheeting, thick walls, and, of course, two (small) condoms.

All of which you may come to appreciate at 4am.

Bizarre Korean fact: Most love motels are very difficult to book. You basically just need to show up, and it's best to do so after 9pm. Love motels are very busy on Saturday evenings and Valentines Day. Your best bets are the subway stops at Seoul National University (exit 4) and Ewha Women's University.


1. Nikki on October 25, 2011

I can rely on you Blythe to further my *education* x

2. Blythe on October 25, 2011

Ha. Happy to be of service, Nik x

3. Phoenix on October 25, 2011

What a delightful tale of mysterious romance.

4. Anonymous on October 25, 2011

I consider this essential information for my future in Korea. Thanks Blythe. Jan

5. Blythe on October 25, 2011

Are you telling me this is not the mindless dribble I intended it to be? And that it actually might be useful, Jan? If that's the case, I think I need to reassess my whole approach to blogging.

And Phoenix Sebastian Foyle (if that is indeed your real name), I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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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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