South Korean 'love hotels' clean up act to woo youthful clients

Wed Aug 12, 2015 7:47am EDT
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By Christine Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - The grimy windows, racks of adult videos and red bedroom lights are disappearing from South Korea's short-stay hotels as they move upmarket to lure young people who are shedding conservative attitudes in favor of more openness about sex.

Competition is heating up amid the falling numbers of the so-called "love hotels", which featured this year in television advertisements by smartphone app companies targeting young, privacy-seeking couples who form the bulk of customers.

At the Hotel Yaja Wangsimni in Seoul, part of a growing franchise chain, amorous couples can enjoy rooms with whirlpool baths, laptops, brand-name amenities and fresh bedsheets, all for 30,000 won ($26) for three hours.

"Motels are now becoming accepted as places couples can comfortably visit as part of regular dates," said a 30-year-old student surnamed Yang, who visits short-stay hotels with his girlfriend up to four times a month.

Yang, who lives with his parents, like most unmarried young South Korean adults, declined to give his full name.

As young Koreans become less inhibited about using love hotels, they are growing pickier about the ones they frequent, said Kim Young-su, a manager at Yaja franchise brand owner Yanolja, whose name translates as "Hey, let's play".

"In the past, the bedrooms were dim and complimentary facilities were non-existent," Kim added. "The buildings were designed for a single purpose."

Yanolja has 70 locations and provides information on motels and hotels through its website and mobile phone app.   Continued...

A employee checks an empty room at a branch of Hotel Yaja in Seoul, South Korea, July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji