Newest phenomenon in Korean prostitution: ‘Hug rooms’

March 2 2011

For those who don’t know, the phrase “second round” (2차) strongly implies off-site prostitution.

With intensified efforts to crack down on prostitution, which have resulted in the creation of “kiss rooms” engaging in nearly-sexual acts, so-called “hug rooms” (허그방) have appeared that claim to “only offer embraces”.

In a saturated market, nearly-sexual services are springing up and pulling in customers, and are spreading into Seoul after establishing themselves in Gyeonggi-do.

In fact,  on the afternoon of February 24 at “the first hug room” in Anyang, the four-story building had a sign openly advertising an “embrace room” (포옹방). On entering the dimly-lit, 9.9-square meter room, two men who appear to be the owners greeted customers and assigned them to seven small rooms. One of the owners said that “a hug room is 30,000 won (US$27) for 30 minutes, and for kisses it’s 40,000 won… for an extra fee you can get more time.” He added that “if you want to you can go to a ‘second round’.”

With a strange red-lit atmosphere, the 9.9-square meter room has a two-person sofa and a table with tissues. The walls have a coathanger and a sign that says “explanation of embrace room”. It says “you can touch bare skin without disrobing or exposing too much. You can let the manager (the girl) know if you want more time.”

A woman wearing a dress who appeared to be in her early 20s came in with some green tea and set an alarm clock on the table to keep track of the time. The woman said that “hug rooms have the advantages of being cheaper and having girls who warmly treat you like a girlfriend, don’t you think?… many customers want to go to a second round.”

The owner said that “there are many hug rooms in Anyang, Gunpo, and other areas in Gyeonggi-do, and recently they’ve been showing up in Seoul, such as in Sadang and near Gangnam Station… as time goes on businesses offering nearly-sexual services have become common and although it’s not like before, we opened our doors and are doing good business.”

That afternoon near Seoul’s  Sincheon Station in the Songpa-gu, Jamshil-dong area, which is known for having prostitution businesses, flyers with contact information and saying “hug room. Be treated warmly. 30,000 won for 30 minutes” were strewn about the sidewalks. Contacted by telephone, they explained that they were a hug room and that “I will come get you if you are nearby.”

A member of the police said that “this is the first I have heard of  hug rooms… businesses offering nearly-sexual services are difficult to punish because they don’t engage in on-site prostitution.”


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