Unlike in the United States, where it’s become the norm for young couples to date, sleep together, break up and get back together, and even live together before actually admitting that they’re in a relationship, ‘making it official’ usually comes before all that stuff in Korea.
Couples are everywhere, and most of them aren’t discreet about parading their affection. Most of them keep it PG, with little more than holding hands or a peck on the cheek in terms of physical contact in public. However, they compensate by being endearingly or nausiatingly–depending on whether you yourself are single–cute. Couples like to celebrate their love with couple shirts, couple rings, and a myriad of trivial anniversaries.
Sex tends to be an awkward topic in most places around the world. While psychologists claim that it’s the subconscious motivation behind a substantial percent of human behavior, it’s not something we generally talk about. Thus, as a society, we develop all sorts of round-about ways to pursue that act we so desire but are afraid to speak of. Korea is no exception to that rule. In fact, it epitomizes it.
Generally speaking, Korea is sexually more conservative than most Western countries. Although culture certainly plays some role in that, logistics are largely responsible. In highschool, most students are simply too busy, enrolled in classes from early in the morning until late at night, and supervised in their homework afterwards. As many classes are segregated by gender, contact between genders seems to be limited. Moreover, Korea is simply so crowded that there’s nowhere to slip of for time alone. In urban areas sidewalks are crowded at all hours of the night, and every area bathed in florescent light.
Where does all the pent-up Freudian desire go? One important outlet is alcohol. Being trashed is an acceptable excuse for just about any kind of behavior. Inhibitions evaporate as soon as you enter the club.
Another important feature of Korean sex culture is the DVD Room. For about fifteen bucks you can rent a couple of hours in a private room with a semi-comfortable sofa to “watch a movie.” These establishments are everywhere, especially in nightlife areas.
Finally, a good deal of the pent-up desire gets commercialized. Although prostitution is illegal by the books, the streets tell a different story. Walk into the men’s bathroom at most bars, and you’ll find something like this: