Korean culture is fascinating and has countless traditions that are worth researching. One of those traditions is the practice of Korean love motels.
What exactly are Korean love motels, and why are they important in Korean culture?
Love motels in Korea are hotels that are suited more toward a younger audience. When they were first made, they were used as a way for younger couples to have a chance at intimacy.
Over the years, love motels have changed and gained a broader audience. Younger couples still go there, but so do common people who just need a cheap place to stay for the night.
The rest of this article will cover what a love motel is in detail, the history of love motels, how to find love motels in Korea, themed motels, what they include, why they’re so popular, and a conclusion.
What A Korean Love Motel Is
Couples go to love motels to get intimacy away from their parents and friends, hence the name love motels.
They’re currently used for multiple purposes, not just intimacy. Many of those in business will go to love motels to stay overnight while on a trip because of the cost.
Love motels can be as low as 20 dollars a night or as high as 150 a night depending on the location and luxury of the specific hotel.
You can find these hotels in the older districts in Korea. Plenty of these hotels are on the outskirts of Seoul, which is the largest city in South Korea.
The original mature nature of the motels means they’re near adult-catered areas. In other words, they’re near bars, theaters, restaurants, and other adult establishments.
It’s also worth noting that love motels are prohibited from being near schools.
Another thing worth noting is that the closer a love motel is to a transportation station, the more likely it’s catering to business trips.
This is because the proximity of transportation is appealing to people in business. Therefore, these motels aren’t as intimate in nature as others.
There are two methods of renting a room in the hotels. The first one appeals more to younger couples.
Instead of staying overnight, you can rent a room for a few hours (typically two or three). This process is called daesil (대실), and it’s mostly for young couples looking for intimacy.
The second method is an overnight stay that happens with older couples looking to get away from home for a bit with a change of scenery, or it’s used for those looking for a cheap place to stay for one night.
The History Of Love Motels
These hotels came about because in Korean culture, it’s not uncommon for growing children to live with their parents until they get married.
That means they’re staying with their parents until their late 20s or early 30s. With that in mind, it’s hard for couples to get intimacy.
The idea of love motels originated in Japan and came to South Korea in the late 1980s. Popularity for them grew since they were so affordable, clean, and unique.
They had themes that made them stand out from other hotels, not to mention they were easily accessible.
Unfortunately, shortly after they came to Korea, a bad reputation followed some of the motels due to illicit activities that have happened there.
Recently, they’ve made a steady comeback and remain in the older districts of Korea.
How To Find Love Motels In Korea
If you’re on the hunt for a Korean love motel, you’re in luck. They’re very easy to find, and most of them are lit up with neon signs on the sides of the building.
That means they stand out more than the other buildings, especially at night. Look for the neon signs with hearts on them!
The signs themselves are very cheesy. They’re very colorful and will have names that are strange.
Again, that makes them stand out from the crowd. Love motels are common in South Korea, but they’re especially common in Seoul (서울).
In general, you’ll find most hotels near bus stations since businessmen and women are looking for a convenient spot to stay.
Motels are pandering more toward businesses nowadays, so your best bet is going near bus and subway stations. If there’s none there, check the older districts.
To foreigners, it won’t be as obvious. ‘Hotel’ won’t be spelled out in big bold letters. In fact, it won’t even be in English. 호텔 is the word for hotel in Korean, so look for those letters when you’re searching for any place to stay, let alone a love motel.
You can also search less traveled areas, like alleyways. Side entrances to love motels will be in alleyways.
Love motels value privacy and anonymity, which means you can find discrete entrances to them all around the backroads and alleyways.
What makes love motels stand out from standard hotels are their themes.
Yes – themed hotels and rooms.
To appeal to a wider audience, motels began choosing themes to draw people in. These themes vary from graffiti to ancient royalty. There’s even some with giant ramen cups.
Back when these hotels were first made, they added themes to give guests a more enjoyable experience.
The themes worked at drawing people in, and the popularity only grew more. As the popularity grew, so did the desire for themes. New themes were born, each one more creative.
The best part about themed motels is they have extra items inside the rooms.
For example, a gaming themed hotel will have better Wi-Fi and even gaming devices for the couples to use. Even better: the charge isn’t much higher than it would be at an average motel.
Product Themed Motels
Perhaps the silliest theme in this article is the product theme. It’s silly, but it’s appealing to many, especially younger couples.
The product themed motels are exactly what they sound like: a motel full of life-sized products like Starbucks cups, soccer balls, and phone boxes.
There’s beds inside huge soccer balls, couches inside buses, closets inside banana milk bottles. The list goes on and on and only gets more ridiculous as it goes.
Although beyond weird, it’s an innovative and hilarious idea that makes plenty of money.
This theme is one of the most popular themes for love motels in Korea. The reason why is because they’re funny, affordable, and offer an intriguing spin on the typical hotel.
Even the other themes on this list don’t make the same bizarre decisions as this theme does.
In these motels, you can sleep inside a soccer ball or giant bowl of ramen. That’s very creative!
Ancient Royalty Themed Motels
Although not as popular, ancient royalty themed motels offer a more elegant stay. Or, as elegant as a cheap hotel can provide.
These rooms have statues of religious or historical figures from the ancient times in South Korea. Not only are they pretty, but you’ll learn more about Korean history.
Along with that, there’s gold accents around the beds, walls, and other furniture. This design gives the rooms a more elegant feel to match the theme.
Guests of all ages love this theme and think it’s a great opportunity to stay somewhere clean, fun, and historical.
Graffiti Themed Motels
Compared to the last theme, this one is not as elegant. However, it still has lots of glamor and appeal to it.
As the name implies, there’s graffiti all around the motel. The bedsheets, the walls, the furniture, and more. This is the perfect stay for hip hop lovers.
Perhaps the most unique part about it is that there’s a karaoke machine – but that’s not all. There’s also a pole in the center of the stage, and it has a color changing floor.
If you’re looking for a stylish and trendy motel, this one’s for you.
Glow In The Dark Themed Motels
Similar to the trend and pop of the graffiti motel, the glow in the dark motel is for those craving a memorable stay with a vibrant theme.
Despite how these motels are meant for couples or solo travelers, the dark themed motels are perfect for small parties of people.
The glow in the dark theme is exactly what it sounds like. There’s designs and drawings on the walls and ceilings of the rooms.
When you turn off the lights, the designs and drawings glow, making the room flash with gorgeous light. It’s perfect for parties and sensual moods.
No-Theme Themed Motels
Although it sounds like a contradicting statement, there’s actually motels around South Korea that have no theme as their theme.
Instead of having one set theme, there’s multiple around the entire establishment. One room will have an ice theme, and the next will be a fairy tale.
The appeal of this is the mystery of what room you’re going to get.
Of course, you can request a specific theme, but you can also get surprised by the choice of room you’re given. That’s what makes it so fun!
What Korean Love Motels Include
They’re cheap hotels that are meant to be used for only a day at most. Therefore, don’t expect much elegance or amenities.
These places aren’t your average hotels. They have funny themes and culture behind them, and the whole point is for quick visits.
Most love motels are only going to include a bed, TV, and shower. As mentioned in the themes, some motels have extra items depending on the theme.
It very much varies depending on the motel you go to, and the theme the motel has.
In general, motels only have basic items and not a fancy display of technology and luxury.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t go to one that doesn’t have a great view or extra stuff like complimentary toiletries and adult entertainment you can play on the TV.
If you’re looking for a hotel with more than basic accommodations, go to a themed hotel to get more out of your money.
Or you can go to the richer districts of Seoul (like Gangnam or 강남구 in Hangul) and find the more luxurious ones with better amenities.
Why They’re Popular
Although the answer may seem obvious, there’s more to the puzzle here. Of course these hotels are popular because they offer intimacy and convenient rooms. However, there’s more to the answer than that.
A lot of the business comes from tourism.
Beyond South Korea, there’s also love motels in Japan, and they’re popular among tourists as strange as that may sound.
The themed motels are the ones that make them so popular with the foreigners. They want to go simply to stay somewhere cheap and get amazing photos.
As much as privacy and convenience are two main factors in the rise of love motels, tourism brought more money to the business due to the curiosity foreigners have, and also the desire to explore new cultures and themes.
Another reason that tourists and locals alike go to these hotels are the showers.
Yes, that may sound odd, but for those who are far from home and need a shower, or an emergency happens where they need a shower, love motels are cheap stops where they can easily take a shower.
In South Korea, there’s a particular set of buildings known as love motels. They appeal to both younger and older couples, and nowadays, common travelers and people in business like to stay overnight in these places. They were made to give young couples a place for intimacy.
Love motels originated in Japan and came to South Korea in the late 1980s, becoming popular shortly after because of their appealing nature.
With Korean culture having children stay with their parents until they’re married, couples needed a way to get private time.
These motels are found in older districts of Korea, and most prominently in Seoul. They’re also popular because of their themed hotels.
They have themes ranging from graffiti to ancient royalty. They even have giant products to make the whole experience more enjoyable.