Room Salons: “Refined” Korean Brothels [part 1]

room salon entrance

written by gkim

This entrance to one of the “refined” brothels in Korea which are called Room Salons or Room Bangs seems a bit shabby, doesn’t it? The room salons don’t all look like this, but this one caught my eye because of the entryway. It is seemingly wide and the first step you take will dip you onto a stairwell that descends downwards into a hell of a place for mostly rich businessmen. You can’t actually see the establishment because it’s built way below the street. I know why such men would come to places like these because in fact, I have been to room salons on numerous occasions myself. Yes, I, a woman, have been dragged along to these places more than a handful of times by my corporate bosses in AMERICA. The environment and ambiance are fully catered to make most men feel like kings. Because the women who work at these places dress extremely elegantly and are well-spoken, the men don’t feel as if they are involved in any type of misconduct with per say a street-walking prostitute.

Room salons in Seoul like this one in the photo are slightly different in the way they operate from the ones in the States although the overall concept is the same. I have been to room salons in Seoul and California, and I’m aware that there are locations in other parts of Korea as well as other parts of the US. Do you see the valet attendant under the tiny canopy? Not only does he direct his fellow employees to park or retrieve people’s cars, he also makes sure that no “stray cats” make their way downstairs. What happens when you reach the bottom of this stairwell with a party of four let’s say? “ANYONGHASAYO!” (“Hello” in Korean) The front host will greet you and give you a gracious bow. You’ll be asked how many are in your party if you haven’t already called to make a reservation–which is usually the protocol. Then you’ll be ushered into a grandiose looking room that usually has plush leather seating surrounding three sides of the room. A large table is at the center and a karaoke machine attached to a television screen sits in the corner facing the seating area. Some places are nicer than others and some old places look a bit drab such as the photo below but they still thrive regardless. Once in a while, males will bring along females but 95% of the time, men won’t bring women. Some may say that the room salon world is boring, trivial, or uncontroversial. Who doesn’t know about sexual exploitation in Asia, right? However, the room salon business makes up a huge part of the sex trafficking business industry in Korea. They have tiers–like a caste system of some sort where there are high-level room salons and low- level room salons. The levels are based on how beautiful and smart the women who prostitute themselves there are. The higher the level, the costlier it is as well. These room salons are a huge problem in Korea and the States. Room salons can easily be disguised as noraebangs (karaoke rooms). Therefore, it is much harder for them to be cited or caught as locations of trafficking.


Once you walk inside, it’s very fancy looking, completely opposite of what it seems to be on the outside. There are many rooms with windows that are tinted completely black. All you see are doors and hallways. The host ushers you and your party into a room and once you’re seated, a madam will come inside. She’ll be very beautiful and elegant looking, usually decked out in jewels and expensive clothes and shoes. She’ll chat with you and get to know what type of business you’re in and take your order for alcohol. Now, the alcohol is ridiculously overpriced here. This is the reason why only mostly rich businessmen frequent room salons. A bottle of whiskey that you would be able to buy for under $100 at the supermarket or liquor store would cost you anywhere from $1500 to about $2000 here. This would include a side plate of sliced fruit, water bottles, and nuts. Next, the madam will leave to fetch the room salon girls. Usually, there are about 20-25 girls working in one night. The madam will bring in about 4-5 girls at a time and she’ll have them line up in front of you and your party. She’ll do this until all of the available girls have been seen. Each girl will be very elegant looking once again. No trashy looking hookers here. Then each customer will tell the madam which girl he liked by describing her attire or telling her he liked the far right girl in the second round of girls. The madam will bring in all of the girls that have been chosen by you and your party.

In the lower caste of room salons, the working girls are required to lift their skirts up as they walk inside in front of the customers. The girls are not allowed to wear undergarments. Then the males choose the girls based on what they are shown underneath their skirts. Extremely disturbing. Even more heinous is that these room salons are popular for their “talented” girls. The girls are known to do things such as get butt-naked on the center table, put knife handles up their crotches, and cut fruit using their vaginal muscles to control the knife.

After the male customers have taken their pick of girls, they begin to drink. Each customer will have a girl beside them, pouring them drinks, feeding them fruit, starting up a conversation, and lighting cigarettes for them. If a customer requests a “band,” from the madam, a guy with a guitar will come in and play while one of the girls sing along on the karaoke machine. Oftentimes, someone will bang along on a tambourine. The parties in each room get pretty loud. Now, if a girl is very popular, she will have multiple customers across several rooms. She will have to run back and forth spending a certain amount of time with her partner in each room. One girl I met stated that she felt like a bouncing ball when she had more than two customers. She couldn’t even remember who she met the night before when she woke up the next day from her drunken stupor. When there are multiple customers at one time, the girls get sloshed off of the immense amount of alcohol they are required to consume. The customers who frequent room salons are known to be pretty touchy-feely with the girls. They’ll stick their hands into their shirts while sitting in front of everyone else and start fondling the girls’ nipples. Or, they blatantly just start making out with them. Most of the girls I met were so desensitized to such touching and kissing that their facial expressions didn’t change the slightest bit when the men did this. Can you imagine sitting in a room with about five grown men just fondling girls who are dressed in decadent attire and draped in fancy jewelry and watches, and furthermore, these girls are just nonchalantly chattering away next to them as if they can’t feel anything that is happening to their bodies?

The women, men, room salon owners, and traffickers desperately need to be saved by Jesus. We must fight against the evils that are swirling around our societies. Christian men in Korean corporate companies need to speak up more and help their colleagues see what is happening to God’s children. We must not turn a blind eye.