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Nightlife in Korea: Bars, Clubs, and Dancing

September 27, 2012

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So today we’re gonna talk about nightlife in Korea. DISCLAIMER: we didn’t do everything there is to do with Nightlife in Korea. We’ve never been to booking clubs or host bars, but we have been to a bunch of bars and dance clubs. So, for the latter two we can speak about with a lot of experience. For the former two, we’re basing this off of what our friends have told us.

Side note: none of our friends have actually gone to host bars themselves. They always tell the story like “well, I KNOW A GUY who goes and this is what he does” or “I’ve been with some people at a host bar and this is what they did, but I never did that myself.” You know, now that we think about it, we’re not even sure why we talked about host bars, because we doubt that any of you have ever went or actually have the desire to go yourselves. Do you? We made them sound, at first, like Ouran Host Club, but that’s a bit misleading, because Ouran Host Club is wonderful and magical and makes you feel special on the inside. Host clubs in Korea, from how they’ve been described to us, are a lot more…umm. Not innocent. Anyhow, the whole point of talking about this is just for you to know that they, indeed, do exist.

Dancing, though, we know! We just don’t do it that much. Hongdae’s where we usually go dancing. Club FF is our favourite, because they play Indie Music, both Korean and international. Just last weekend we were there and they played Crystal Castles, which is our most played band on iTunes EVER. But that’s just when it’s the two of us wanting to go out dancing together. If we’re with a group of friends and they’re looking for something more danceable, we go to the more Korean-ized dance clubs that play THAT GODFORSAKEN SONG FAR TOO MUCH. What is that song with the soccer dance? You know what I mean, right? What’s the name of this song? 100 points to the first team to name it! And if someone has a video of that dance, then 200 points! We never took a video of it ourselves. We got soooome footage of dancing at night when Martina broke her ankle, because she broke her foot when she tried to do another dance outside of the soccer dance. THAT DAMN SOCCER DANCE, I TELL YOU!

Otherwise, we talked about Hongdae’s Free Park a bit at the end. We really like it there, but we didn’t really describe it well. Basically, it’s a really small area, not really even a park, but it’s outdoors, by a swing set, with a few trees around it, and people just…hang out there. People bring their own drinks and just chat with friends. Other things happen around that area. Some people play live music. Sometimes there’s a Silent Disco, in which you rent a set of wireless headphones and dance to music that the DJ’s playing. It’s totally awesome, because – to you – you’re like “AHH YEAH DIS MAAH SONNNNGG!” and you can dance with a bunch of people, but to the outsiders, to those without headphones, it looks really weird watching people dance to music you can’t hear. Last Saturday there was impromptu boxing. Yep. A dude had boxing gloves and boxing helmets and let people box. We saw one dude, really arrogant, get knocked on his ass. Great times! Nothing like foreigners beating each other up for sport! But, no, really: it’s got a great vibe, the Free Park, and we hang out there whenever we get the chance.

Don’t ask us much about Gangnam nightlife. We’re a bit anti-Gangnam. Nothing against Psy. It’s just too stooshy for our tastes. Too rich for my blood, I’d say.

So, yeah! That’s a bit about nightlife in Korea. Long story short: hang out in Hongdae. It’s the best!

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Nightlife in Korea: Bars, Clubs, and Dancing

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  1. Yeah and now in america, gangnam style is like an organized dance. Now if you even say gangnam style people will start dancing crazily…. Except some of them think its called gang man style…Kind of like solja boy used to be…

    3 years ago
    • My dad called me up the other day and asked me if I knew the song “Gundam Style,” which LOL, is a Japanese anime. Now I keep picturing the Gundam machines doing the horse dance.

      3 years ago
      • Oh that is so hilarious! My mum always calls it Gundam style as well. I think it’s because I love Gundam Seed and I guess because they’re both Asian she thinks it’s the same thing. Hahaha

        3 years ago
  2. Ouran High School host club!!!!!!!!!!!!! SOOOOOOOO GOOOOD!

    3 years ago
  3. Ooh, I can answer that!
    When my parents held their wedding 14 years ago, they had a normal white wedding like North American ones. The dad brings the bride up the aisle, there’s a priest/whatever the person is called making a long boring speech, etc. And then there was extra footage of the wedding where the bride and groom were in traditional Korean clothing and I forgot what exactly they did, but I think it involved something with the parents of the couple and tons of traditional food on the table. Oh, and I don’t think they had bridesmaids like they do in North America.
    Eh, if this does get picked, Simon and Martina will explain it better than I do. :P

    3 years ago
  4. Those organized dances are kinda like when the chicken dance is played? You kinda just automatically dance to it without thinking.

    3 years ago
  5. VB

    Wow, so in k-dramas when a character is getting picked up from drinking, they were at a BAR. I always thought they were at a swanky restaurant with bar service. :o

    Love the Sakura Kiss reference! Ah, Ouran…

    So from what I picked up on at the end is that there is NOTHING to do for free (except Hongdae) in US cities I’ve been in, they are some free events, parks, gardens, special open hours in museums, library events, even the odd block party etc. in the summer. No such thing in Korea?

    3 years ago
  6. thats funny because thanks to your video I realised another cultural thing…..when you talked about BARS in Korea…I was like… WTF? how is it strange?it’s totally normal !!!we have the same kind of bars here, in Poland…..and that’s how I learned that canadian bars are more different than european ones….here, sadly, people don’t usually go to bars alone, meet random people or socialize with another tables…wow we are more eastern than we think…… well thank you guys for another useful information (even though it wasn’t planned) !!

    3 years ago
  7. how is the dating life?
    i mean, it seems like u haver to know someone in Soth Korea or your gonna be a loney soul there. So how can someone that just moved or on a vacation to south korea meet and hang out with new people?

    3 years ago
  8. so the organized dance is like the cupid shuffle in America :) everyone knows it and when it comes on YOU MUST DANCE O-o

    3 years ago
    • Cupid shuffle, cha cha slide, or cotton eye joe. the sad thing is YOU MUST DANCE!! You have no choice, you just start dancing automatically

      3 years ago
  9. how is the dating life there for people..
    i mean, it seems if you don’t know anyone it can be very lonely there.,
    but can you talk about a person coming into South korea and wanting to make some new friends…how is that like?

    3 years ago
    • It’s hard…it’s better if you are a student because you can interact with your classmates and in that regard there are organized camps (in camps teachers too can bond with other members of their school)

      3 years ago
  10. I don’t like clubs or bars, hanging around the park or library is cool too…you never know you might find friends there too (but not in the park at night :))) )

    3 years ago
  11. Maybe this soccer dance is something like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTSCQcxSRrY There is club version of this song but without choreography: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDtnoHGTHXc Song title is “Dyskoteka gra”.

    3 years ago
  12. so basically… if you have no friends in korea, then your night life is forever alone? by which i mean, internet all night long?

    3 years ago
    • There are western style bars, which has been a bit of trend since a decade ago. But even so, people rarely go those bars alone. Your best bet is to go to clubs (or dance clubs as Simon and Martina referred), since its full of people, people wouldn’t look at you weird; furthermore, not many leave with the same party that they came with.

      3 years ago
  13. wow, crystal castles is amazing!! i listen to everything but this kinda music is the replay an embarassing amount of times on my iphone on the go kind of thing

    could you guys make a video playlist of non korean bands that are in that category for you guys as well? id love to know your international tastes :D

    3 years ago
  14. Ouran High School Host Club! Totally Awesome!

    3 years ago
  15. Oh my God ! Martina you’ve lost SO MUCH WEIGHT since your Wank – Hospital Edition Video ! It’s Inconceivable !

    3 years ago
  16. Hah, those bars are pretty similar to Europe styled bars, cute.

    3 years ago
  17. My friend (don’t know if our other friend or my sister will join us) and I want to go to a club or bar when we go back next year. We’ll probably do the bar thing for sure because we’re not really into clubs (though we don’t drink that much), but a club isn’t out of the question since I do love to dance and she’s never been to a club. We’ll see~

    I hope someone finds a video of that dance because now I’m extremely curious. xD In Chicago, we have the Cha-Cha Slide, and it’s a required dance to learn – at least it feels like it. LoL

    3 years ago
  18. Silent Discos are awesome! We went to one in the Science Museum a couple of years ago, when they organized Christmas events for adults, and I loved taking my headphones off just to fully experience the whole weirdness of the situation. They also had three DJs and hence three stations that you could listen to, with different rhythms that required different dance moves, which just added to the hilarity.
    This is OT, but Martina, you might appreciate the beauty of this wall sticker: http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/chocovenyl/product/donut .:) Unfortunately, it’s also really expensive, but maybe you could use it for inspiration!

    3 years ago
  19. Ha! I was in Seoul a few weeks ago and my friend and I stumbled upon a male host bar. We sat across the street at a resturant and ate and drank there as I watched all the hosts early in the night getting people inside, then one by one they were gone! My friend explained what the host bars were and I was fascinated with this and watching it from the outside! They were indeed some beautiful korean guys….but it’s just so funny you guys talked about this today because I recently just saw all this!

    3 years ago
  20. haha i recognize those earring martina! Love em'<3 :D

    3 years ago
  21. I’m in a wheelchair. Have you seen many of us fitting in with the Korean lifestyle?

    3 years ago
  22. I spot the Meemers peeking from behind Martina! XD

    3 years ago
  23. omg i can just imagine those organized dances are like those Bollywood musicals where people start appearing out of nowhere, knows the exact choreography and lyrics to the song.

    3 years ago
  24. Question: what do Koreans think about interacialNaiomi marriages? YouTube name : firestormthenedgehog

    3 years ago
  25. Well I have a question :) Next year we plan to go with my best friend to Korea to experience life there and Korean culture and we would like to stay there at least for a year. In this video you are telling us about about clubs where you can meet new people and a waiter is your “wingman” which is not really common in western cultures :) So I would like to ask – while in Korea where you can get to know other people? What is appropriate and inappropriate when meeting new people? Are Korean people eager to meet foreigners? I would be more than happy to see you answering my questions :) It would be of much help! Kisses!

    3 years ago
    • One of the best ways that I have met Koreans is through a language exchange. You can check on facebook for your area and go to these monthly language exchange where there will be koreans and foreigners. Some actually go to meet language partners if you want to study Korean, others go just to meet people.

      3 years ago
    • Simon and Martina have already done a TLDR about how to make friends in Korea. You should check it out :)

      3 years ago
  26. i just sang with you guys when you did ouran’s kiss kiss fall in love! oh yeah~!!!!

    3 years ago
  27. That’s what I thought it sounded like too.

    3 years ago
  28. Oh so it was enjoyable? I see too many negative depictions on them, and since I don’t like being hit on even in regular clubs, I didn’t think I’d like these.

    Could you tell us the pricing when you went? Just roughly? So if I do try it out, I don’t exit with an empty credit card lol

    3 years ago
    • I too, have watched, The Great Happiness Space, in fact I was in Japan studying psychology and Gender studies, so I was well informed before going to a host club as I had just done a project on the documentary. So I agree with Rebecca, it isn’t always a good business so don’t take my enjoyment of it the wrong way and always be careful.

      I feel that I may be one of the few foreign females to go to a host club, as it is very taboo and normal Japanese people shy away from hosts in general. Also, they rarely speak English, as I said, so they don’t normally know how to pick up a foreigner. In my case, I was more of a fun oddity for them than a business venture, and when I told them I couldn’t possibly afford to go to a host club they promised to only charge for the entrance and house alcohol. They stuck to their word and I only paid between 20 – 40 dollars, whatever the equivalent yen is now. We had at least three to four guys around me and my friend the whole time (normally you just have one or two to a group). I found that it is just like flirting with American guys, they light your cigarette, carry your purse, get you drinks, etc. I enjoyed it because hosts are much more free and casual to interact with rather than normal Japanese guys, who can be timid and tended to run away from me as I am a tall American girl.

      3 years ago
    • It can be VERY expensive, and pretty sketchy if you don’t go to a nicer one. There’s actually a very interesting documentary (I watched it on NetFlix, if you have that where you are) called “The Great Happiness Space” that was about a male Host Club in Japan (actually, female Host Clubs are called Hostess Clubs). It interviewed the Hosts as well as the regular customers.

      Host Clubs price-wise can range from pretty cheap to really expensive. The nicer ones are obviously the more expensive ones. But that’s just the price of admission. The real problem comes once you get in. The main business for the Hosts is the selling of alcohol. They will sell crappy, cheap champagne for SUPER expensive since this is where most of their money comes from. In order to get their customers to buy their super expensive, crappy alcohol, they will pretty much ignore them until they pay up. By the end of the night, many of the girls who go there end up completely broke.

      On top of that, most of the regular customers end up being female prostitutes. Because their work is so loveless and lacking in affection, they go to Host Clubs to find what they perceive as real affection. But in order to gain the attention of the Hosts, they have to pay, and eventually they end up paying all of the money that they just earned prostituting themselves and have to work even harder to earn more. It’s a really sad cycle, and those women are definitely to be pitied, but I’m just saying that that’s the crowd you’ll be around if you go to a Host Club.

      Also, the Host Clubs tend to be situated in areas that are potentially dangerous for young, female foreigners because, especially around Tokyo, there are a lot of people on the streets looking to pick up women for “work” (essentially human trafficking).

      Many people don’t know these things, and they end up going to a Host Club and/or the surrounding areas and feeling very uncomfortable. If you want to go to a Host Club, it’s completely fine. Just be careful and be wary of what’s going on around you, and you’ll probably be okay. Plus, I’m basing this information on what I know about Host Clubs in Japan. I don’t know anything about Host Clubs in Korea, so they might be slightly different.

      3 years ago
  29. maybe the song martina and simon are talking about is riverside by sidney samson here is the youtube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h911ObHyM_Q

    3 years ago
  30. Ooh, I wanna go tot Hongdae’s Free Park. It’s sounds awesome.

    3 years ago
  31. Ah….drinking with Koreans….never ends with just one round. I think AT LEAST two and normally three or four….haha
    American style drinking is just so boring…..beer pong gets old even before the first game. At least, for me. haha

    3 years ago
  32. Hmm. Interesting topic this week.

    Bars: Sounds like a place I’d like to go to. FOOD with my drinks. SEATS so that my heels don’t kill me. And no socialising with strangers means no random guys feeling me up. Awesome.

    Dance clubs: I’ve seen a lot of organised dancing here in Australia as well, such as the Macarena, the Nutbush, and uh, I dunno a whole bunch of other dances I don’t know. I knew none of them. But I try anyway, and make a fool of myself, and don’t really care.

    Booking clubs: So it’s like goukon (in Japan) but the partners are all there for you – as opposed to arranging it yourself. Not bad. I wouldn’t mind going with a friend.

    Host clubs: Okay maybe I’ve been reading to many seinen manga or watching too many mature jdrama, but I did not think of OHSHC when you mentioned host clubs. I actually thought of yes, the horrible prices and the scandalous things that go on in there. I don’t think I’d enjoy it. I’d prefer a maid cafe.

    3 years ago
    • Fuuko, if you haven’t seen it already, you might like to watch this documentary about a host club in Osaka, Japan, called The Great Happiness Space. It’s a real eye-opener and the way/order in which it was filmed and edited really maximizes its impact on the viewer. I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough. I saw it a couple years ago on Netflix, but you might be able to find it elsewhere online. Here’s the link to its IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0493420/plotsummary

      3 years ago
  33. Martina, you sounded like Mae West at 4:09 when you said “Look at those sexy ladies over there.” I know we are young to know about Mae West (I learned about her back in high school), but she was a popular actress back in the black and white movie days.
    Okay, that was my boring comment for the day. Toodles!

    3 years ago
  34. Hmm Sexy men at a host club. >w< I might have to check this out when I get to Korea. Maybe. xDD Ouran High School host club! FTW! Dr. Meemersworth! I saw you hanging out behind Martina you cute kitty!

    3 years ago
  35. Omg, in Canada, in most, or at least some Western bars, you will have spontaneous dancing happen, but it will be “line dancing”… I know one club in Calgary that at midnight, would put a classic generic country song that EVERYONE would line dance to on the floor! It was kinda weird, but once you get the dance and can dance along, it’s quite fun!! :D

    3 years ago
  36. what are hospitals like in korea?

    3 years ago
  37. The soccer dance…uh…Ole Ole Ole? The Ricky Martina one? No?
    This Time for Africa?
    The Time of Our Lives?
    Hips Don’t Lie?

    ……….for some reason I don’t think you’re actually talking about a soccer/football song, but I’m not knowledgeable enough in kpop dances to know what you’re hinting at T_T

    3 years ago
  38. OURAN HIGH SCHOOL HOST CLUB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    and yes, i indeed was thinking of host clubs while you guys were talking about this stuff!!!
    yeah!!! free park!!

    3 years ago
  39. What is the soccer dance…..? is it SNSD Genie…? the 재기차기 part…? I haven’t actually heard of any dance being called a soccer dance so this is my closest guess….haha

    3 years ago
  40. Boobi Boobi .. lolz

    3 years ago
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