Light fixture outside a love motel in Sinchon. Seoul, South Korea. © Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.
Love motels are a common sight all over South Korea. If you travel through the country by overnight train, you will see the numerous neon lights of the love motel districts. While some might turn up their noses at such places, the majority of love motels that I have ever encountered ranged from acceptable to fancy, and only rarely does one stumble upon rundown places these days, at least not in bigger urban areas.
Since Koreans commonly live with their families until they get married and student accommodations are often tiny or shared with others, love motels often represent the only places allowing couples privacy for sexual activities. Some used to have different pricing depending on whether or not guests wished to stay overnight or for a few hours only, but lately, I haven’t come across those offers anymore.
Love motels are considerably cheaper than other hotels. Since most of them are rather nice, they are a good alternative if you are looking for affordable accommodation, and even families use them. They are also practical because you can usually check in at any time, day or night, and you only ever pay a room rate, regardless of how many are in your party. In recent years, room rates have soared and you might easily end up paying 80-100,000 Won (£45-55, €55-70, US$70-85) for a fancy room, but usually you can expect to find acceptable rooms for half that amount, depending on location and weekday.
Most recently, I stayed at two love motels in Busan. One looked a bit run-down from the outside but inside, it was was clean and offered spectacular views; the other was absolutely spotless and had reasonable prices even on weekends. While my English friends stayed at one end of the corridor with their 3-year-old daughter, I stayed somewhere in the middle and woke up in the early morning hours to the sounds of passionate (or artificial?) lovemaking in the room next to mine. When I stepped out later, I met a group of girlfriends that had stayed in the room opposite to mine. Couples, friends, lonely travellers, and families – such is the diversity of guests in love motels, so turn that nose back down. [Article from June 2012]
Korea’s latest trend in automated love motels allow you to book and stay without ever encountering hotel staff | Lonely Planet [Article from May 2017]
South Korean ‘love hotels’ clean up act to woo youthful clients | Christine Kim, Reuters [Article from August 2015]
“People clearly don’t know what’s going on” – Interview with Hyeri Lee, sex worker in Daegu | Research Project Korea [Article from February 2015]