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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. Haha seems like you’ve been to many clubs !!
    Espeically I liked what you said “Anti-gangnam” haha

    You should probably visit Korea club web-site.
    Because those clubs aren’t the best in Hongdae.

    I recommend to visit http://www.ClubinKorea.com

    5 years ago
  2. 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?

    7 years ago
  3. Hmmm… I don’t really know about American shows, but I know that the British BBC show Sherlock won an award in Korea for the best foreign show and I’ve seen Doctor Who dubbed in Korean. Oh! and I’ve seen a couple of my relatives in Korea watch HOUSE and CSI Miami.

    7 years ago
  4. Kay

    xDD I want a video of you guys trying to do it… he’s even showing you step by step
    lol
    (jk~~~)

    7 years ago
  5. Kay

    OURAN Highschool!!
    Martina & SImon: you awesome AWESOME ppl! *sings along ♪*
    :DDD

    7 years ago
  6. Hey guys!

    Just wanted to chip in because I have been
    in Seoul for
    five years and have been to host bars, booking clubs and booking bars. I
    noticed that you got booking clubs and bars a little mixed up in the video. If
    you’re new to Korea, you definitely need to have
    the right grasp on all these places or you might get an unwanted surprise when
    you walk in.

    First of all, you should go to all these
    places with Korean friends. Most places won’t even let you in unless you are. Mostly, it’s an English thing. If you are with a group of Koreans, there is a
    way for the establishment to communicate with you, or they assume you can speak
    Korean. If it’s just foreigners, they get
    a little nervous and it’s easier to turn you away
    than to try and speak English. Not to mention, not many foreigners go to host
    bars, booking bars or booking clubs. Ten times out of ten I’ve been let it everywhere when with my Korean girlfriends. Foreign friends
    of mine who have gone without Koreans, weren’t so lucky.

    Plus, it can be a little scary if you don’t know what you’re doing. So be safe, go
    with Korean friends.

    First of all, there are host bars and
    hostess bars, talking bars, kiss rooms, room salons, model bars, sexy bars, the
    list goes on. My best friend and I used to go to a talking/host bar, and for a table
    charge and a bottle of whisky, we had cute guys to entertain us all night.
    (Cost less than 200,000 won with anju, bottle and table fee.) We went to see if
    they were really as raunchy as we had heard, but found they were quite the opposite.
    The guys really did just sit and talk with us, with maybe a little flirting, but
    nothing more (they weren’t allowed to). I’m sure there are places out there like that (for women) we just don’t know where they are.

    The men. Well. No need to get into room
    salons and whatnot. Ick.

    Now, booking bars and clubs. What you
    described is actually a booking bar. Where you and sit at a table with your
    girls or guys, then you can ask the waiters to go invite a table to join you
    (or be invited to a table yourself). They look like your normal Korean-style
    drinking establishment. They are really popular with the younger crowd because
    they tend to be cheaper, since most offer average Korean bar fare – anju, beer, soju, etc. (No cocktails or high-end liquor.) They are
    also more relaxed that booking clubs. You don’t have to dress all fancy to get in (though you will want to look
    your best). Also, these places tend to have age limits. If you older than 1984,
    some chains (Blue Ketchup *cough*) won’t let you
    in.

    Booking clubs are much different. They are actual
    clubs, high-priced and you have to be dressed up nice or the door will turn you
    away, much like the super clubs. Guys have to pay for a table/room and “table service” which can run anywhere from
    a few hundred thousand won up to 1 million won or more. Girls go in and
    typically pay around 60,000 won for what my friends and I call the “holding table” or “break table.” You sit there and they
    bring you drinks, typically bottles of beer. But girls won’t be there for long. The servers at booking clubs will literally
    drag girls to rooms at any given time. You will walk out of one room, just to
    be dragged to the next. (Bathroom breaks are difficult.) However, if you don’t like the guys in the room you are taken to, it’s no problem to leave after a few minutes (or seconds). The guys don’t really seem to mind.

    My friends that often go to these places
    tend to make friends with servers so they can call in advance and let them know
    a group is coming. They often get little perks (like, if you get there before a
    certain time, it’s free) and the server will
    great you at the door and such. They also have dance floors where you can dance
    with your friends to take a break from meeting people, or dance with a special
    someone.

    I would suggest asking your Korean friends
    about the different booking clubs and which one will be good to go to. Some
    attract different age groups or types of people. (Club i tends to be
    businessmen in their 30s and up, but there will be a lot that speak English and
    more kyopos. Boss attracts younger guys, but it’s a little harder finding people who speak English.)

    So, there you go. ^_^

    7 years ago
    • Nev

      Q – so men and women over mid 20s dont get to go to the sort of relaxed booking bars they have to go to the much more expensive and kinda freaky sounding booking clubs?

      7 years ago
  7. How cool is this! Less than $500 is needed to put our wonderful Simon and Martina over $100,000.00 in the fundraiser! AND there are still 24 days to donate!!!! WOW, they may actually get to sleep before this year is out!!!!! I am so proud of the Nasties! I am also proud and grateful to S&M for creating a place/product that is of such a quality that people fall over themselves to help them continue!!!!

    7 years ago
  8. TOMORROW NIGHT! HONGDAE PARK! SEE YOU THERE?

    7 years ago
    • HELLS YEA *wink and gun* (^_−)☆

      …………..wait……….I’m in the wrong continent T_T
      fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff

      7 years ago
  9. i’m really interested in what shows simon and martina watch whether its korean, japanese, american, or canadian. is martina a whovian (due to previous doctor who references)?

    7 years ago
  10. Hongdae’s Free Park sounds a lot like Dolores Park in San Francisco (one of my fave spots to hang in SF)…a small park on the hill and small playground where all the hipsters in the city gather to eat food, drink beer, play music, eat Bi-rite ice cream from around the corner, dance to live or speaker blasting music, throw a frisbee, buy special cookies/brownies (I’m sure this is a no no in Korea), basically anything and everything goes down here…except no rad silent disco or other organized activities has ever occurred as far as I have seen….sad face. Now I know where one of my stops will be in Korea when I visit…woot woot. Thanks Simon and Martina…as always you guys ROK!

    7 years ago
    • Hondae free park is definitely a must to hang out in Hongdae and my friends and I spend lots of time there when we are in the area. There are always live bands or dance competitions or something crazy going on. lots of drinking and music and good old fashioned hanging out. the only thing wit Hongdae park is that its actually quite small and more recently its mostly foreigners now (as in non-Koreans). nonetheless its always a good time.

      7 years ago
      • This only confirms it further that is must see location…possibly multiple visits..I’m an addict for live music while kicking back a few beers, much less in a park, shame the locals don’t enjoy it as much. However, it will be nice to meet people from other parts of the world. Thanks for sharing!

        7 years ago
        • I really use the term “park” very loosly as there is no grass… only concrete and trees and benches, but yes its a must see place on Saturdays during the day (summer time) for the local art market and weekend nights for the party

          7 years ago
    • C

      Is this:
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaygpea/5844112907/ the park you guys are talking about? I swear I’ve seen that place in like 5 dramas recently and it looks pretty awesome.

      Also I couldn’t help but notice that Simon is getting some pretty sweet guns! Keep up the good work you guys!

      7 years ago
  11. My question got erased. >_<

    What about pool (or billiards)? Most casual bars here have at least one or two pool tables. I noticed you didn't mention them in the layout of Korean bars. Is it not a popular sport/activity in Korea? Do you know where someone could go to play some pool in Korea?

    7 years ago
  12. Have you two met any Korean students who were an exchange
    student in the state? If so, what has that person though about America in
    general, food, people, etc. ?

    7 years ago
    • I know this was for Simon and Martina but I thought I would share an anecdote of a friend I lived with in a boarding house for two years who was an exchange student from Korea at the University I attended. I realize this is not everyone’s experience but I felt it is very poignant…especially since I have heard people complain of not feeling welcomed in Korea, not realizing their own country does the same to foreigners.
      Overall he found America extremely isolating and not welcoming. He had this very idyllic vision of America as a place of freedom, acceptance, and diversity; instead he faced racism and felt very unwelcome. His first week in States he was walking down the streets and heard someone call him yellow dog over an over… said thank you to gentlemen not understanding what it meant, only to discover later he was being called a rascist slur. He felt laughed at in his classes and felt people made fun of him whenever he talked. In fact he made a short film about this experience for a class (he was a film studies major) calling it “My Retarded Brother,” where he juxtaposed himself as charismatic and bright man (spoke in Korean with subtitles) vs. mentally handicapped Brother ( spoke in broken english with stunted mannerisms which he later reveals as Himself in America.) He told me felt like (excuse the term these were his words) a “retarded” person in America when in fact he was exceptionally bright, talented, and hard working individual. Honestly, I cried watching the film and him describing his initial experiences in the States. However by the time I met him when he made the film, he felt he had started to master the language and found some warm american friends. Finally he started to feel happy and more at peace with America. Despite his ideal of America being shattered, he accepted America for the all the bad and good he had encountered and made the most of the experience.

      7 years ago
  13. Nic

    Koreans usually have westernized weddings (and after can do a small traditional thing in another room, it’s rare to have a full traditional wedding there now) but there are a lot of differences because they’ve adopted something that didn’t start in their culture and put their own twist on it, so traditions and things we would expect in a Western wedding may not be in a wedding in Korea. Also they often don’t have as much understanding of the meaning and reasons why we do things that way in Western countries.

    7 years ago
  14. Kinda along the lines of this nightlife TLDR…What are the typical drinking games in Korea?…in the states we have kings cup, beer pong, flip cup, etc, so I am curious since Koreans are famous for their drinking what type of drinking games they play.

    7 years ago
    • Jaq

      When I was with my Korean friends we’d open a bottle of Soju and then we’d take turns flicking the little wire stuck to the soju cap until it flew off. If you flicked the wire off everyone else had to drink. Then there was a game that had to do with guessing the number on the soju cap.. but I don’t remember how it went.
      Oh, and then one night I was out with a bunch of Korean guys and… I’ve no idea if this is normal or if they were just trying to make me uncomfortable, but they made me choose between them. They’d say “who is most handsome?” or “who is most charming?” or “who is worst looking?” and I’d have to choose. They’d count to five and if I didn’t choose before the count was up I’d have to drink, and if I chose, the guy I chose had to drink. I ended up punishing the two instigators of this game by choosing them over and over.
      I’d totally love to hear an explanation about more of these games though. Sometimes when I was out with a bunch of Korean friends, they would play games I didn’t understand that seemed to result in me having to drink a lot.

      7 years ago
      • LOL…well it sounds like you have been having a lot of fun in Korea…and possibly your friends may have pulled a fast one on you to get you too drink more..hahaha. The wire on soju cap sounds like something I would come up with as the night of drinking goes on…make up anything for a drinking game. I’m very curious to hear more drinking games too and if anyone has any other drinking games to share..tell us!

        7 years ago
  15. im not sure what song you mean, but from your rendition it sounds a lot like riverside by sidney samson!

    7 years ago
  16. The song they’re referring is called “Riverside” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pde2j70eiC8

    7 years ago
  17. Hey guys! Have you ever been allowed to tape inside a “dance club?” I think we’d all like to see Simon trying to do a group dance (or rather to his own “nasty” version!).

    On a more serious note…Simon – You looked so tired in the video. Were you guys taping late? I hope you aren’t getting sick! Please take care of yourself and stay healthy! :-)

    7 years ago
  18. Few clubs in Seoul celebrate Halloween as a party. But that’s about it. People dress up in costume to join those Halloween parties but people outside the area would probably look at you weird.

    7 years ago
  19. hi guys! you should definitively try Obeg (500) club in hongdae! that clubis amazing, its a kind of north african-indian style club (clay wall with ethnics paints)! When there is not special event, its super calm with indie music, sit on the floor with pillow and caddles everywhere, drinking sangria and smoking chicha…here you can find the very rare koreans rasta guy of seoul! ^^ its a total travel outside korea in heart of hongdae life!

    ->https://www.facebook.com/obeg500?ref=ts&fref=ts

    7 years ago
  20. DId anyone ever figure out what the song/dance is?

    7 years ago
  21. Are you guys talking about this song?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GnyKTJZmM0

    7 years ago
  22. Jaq

    When I was in Korea there was another foreigner that hung out with our group who didn’t drink. People were a bit curious about it, but I think the thing that offended the Koreans was that he didn’t want to pay for the alcohol (which, seriously, it’s not that expensive) and this threw a wrench in the proceedings, because the Koreans were so used to just splitting the check. To figure out how much someone should have to pay without the alcohol was just a ridiculous extra complication. So if you’re going to not drink, just don’t make a big deal about it.

    Of course this is just my experience as a student there for three short months.
    And hey, I am also a Linguistics major (well, graduated a year ago) and I’m hoping to go back as a teacher too. Good luck with your plans!

    7 years ago
    • Owl

      How interesting. I’ve always heard that splitting the check is considered atypical in Korean society. (I can’t confirm or deny this, as I’ve yet to visit Korea. It’s just the way I’ve learned things.) Perhaps it differs from person to person…
      Fortunately, I’m very used to splitting bills out of habit, so I don’t think I’d have too much of a problem with that myself. If paying an extra dollar or two means I can get away with not drinking, that’s fine by me. Heheh.

      7 years ago
  23. really interesting!! i wish you guys would show the footage from when Martina broke her ankle though… or at least do another wank in a club so we can see what it’s like! i’m really interested in going clubbing in Korea, so i’d like to know what it’s like and what are the best clubs to go to!

    7 years ago
  24. I think the techno song you guys are looking for is Riverside by Sidney Samson :)

    7 years ago
  25. Here’s a video of the dance (maybe?), apparently to the wrong song, though, and the part in question starts about 1:40 :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uW9pNDUZKj8

    The song here is a hard-rock cover of my introduction to K-pop, Clon’s “Kkungttari syabara”. I’ve no idea who does it and the uploader didn’t say.

    Here’s another one, and the dance is apparently called the “KKokjijeom Dance (꼭지점 댄스)”, meaning “Vertex Dance”(?):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzMdlIdtIwQ

    More quick YouTube searching yielded the title “오 필승 고리아” (O Pilseung Koria, “O Victory Korea”)—which sounds nothing like the one you tried to sing:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dk6wnEkHZhQ

    Another search yielded the name of the original performer, the Yoon Do-hyun Band:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5Ao1baj6Mo

    7 years ago
  26. Jaq

    There were a couple latinos in the group of students I was with in Korea last spring. I didn’t notice that they were treated any differently. We were all just foreigners. Some of the girls were quite fascinated with the girls’ long eyelashes and big eyes… but nothing too out of the ordinary. Just another foreigner.

    7 years ago
  27. What you said about the organized “soccer” dance, reminded me of how here in mexico, every party you attend, it doesn’t matter if it’s a wedding, a birthday, a baptism or whatever, the Spanish version of “Achy breaky heart” and other similar song MUST be played at some point of the party. And really, freaking everyone stands up to dance. The dancefloor gets so crowded it’s nearly impossible to finish it without even getting stepped on feet at least twice.

    7 years ago
  28. i was wondering since poor martina broke her ankle i wanted to know how are the hospitals there i mean do you pay like cash or credit card or you have insurance how does it work?

    7 years ago
  29. Hum. I’ve got a question :)

    In Montreal (Canada), people are very open and there are varieties of everything (Food, Style, Shops…) In Korea, how are they? Are they different?

    7 years ago
  30. I feel like I’m going to be the lone sober person when I go to Korea… The joys of being diabetic, lol! (NOT!)

    7 years ago
  31. What about playing pool (or billiards)? I noticed you didn’t mention them in the layout of Korea bars. A lot of casual bars here have at least one pool table. Do they have them in Korea? Or is it not popular?

    7 years ago
  32. 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!

    7 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.

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

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

    7 years ago
  34. That’s what I thought it sounded like too.

    7 years ago
  35. 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

    7 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.

      7 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.

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

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

    7 years ago
  38. I spot the Meemers peeking from behind Martina! XD

    7 years ago
  39. 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.

    7 years ago