Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sing for Your Supper

We went to the second school to exercise Monday evening via the local 'entertainment area', which I'd like to emphasise is not a red light district, and any similarities are, as they say, entirely coincidental.

Even before we got there, Korean Mother had pointed out a couple of 'Norae Bangs' (singing rooms), featuring pictures of women who appeared to have mislaid most of their clothes. I'd passed by them a few times before without noticing, which either means I'm getting old or otherwise I've developed Korean-Ad-Blindness - a condition brought about by over exposure to in your face advertising (highly likely).

Taking a turn down a narrow side-street off a major route through Busan, we were confronted by the site of a particularly aggressive canyon of neon lights and brightly lit pictures, but while many such roads concern themselves with selling you food, this one rapidly revealed its difference - a preponderance of pictures of wardrobe-challenged females with various enticing slogans suggesting their... availability - for singing.

Yes, this 'entertainment area' is mostly comprised of singing rooms where lonely men in need of a good vocal workout can share their happy experience with willing females provided by the venue. There is nothing more to it than that, and should the supplied companion choose to accompany her singing partner after work in further activities later beyond the premises that is not the business of her employer. Whatever they do in their private time, they must be very good singers because, as the rightmost picture below intriguingly proclaims, above the picture of the somewhat wardrobe-challenged woman: "Your night will be blown away".

In fact women feature in much of the particularly heavy singing room advertising in this area, but striking a blow for equality a couple of the establishments advertise themselves as "women only" (picture below right). Here, apparently, it's male vocal companionship which is provided. For unknown purposes, several rather muscular looking Korean men stood outside some of the establishments, and between this and wishing to avoid recording the image of any Korean gentleman who perhaps may have told his wife he was working late at the office, the task of taking photos was far from straightforward. But I suspect my attempts to appear inconspicuous were an absurd failure given that I was probably the only foreigner in the district.

Aside from the Norae Bangs, the area has a few bars, a couple of ordinary looking coffee shops, and in a surreal twist, a post office. But no barbershops. Another oddity - bouncer-type individuals aside - was the otherwise ordinariness of the streets. A mother walked with her children, some elderly people shuffled their way along, young men strolled hand-in-hand with their dates (perhaps with some subliminal motive), as though they were oblivious to the imagery around them, and perhaps so, even if a brief glance inside many of the entrances will reveal topless photos, along with pictures of barely clothed bottoms proclaiming "Business!".

The street leading into the area may be on a major route through Busan, but from the other side of road it looks like just another consumer trap like thousands of others in the city. But it's not that the business and imagery of companionship is confined to its borders. Korean Mother pointed out a couple of other establishments nestled down side-streets on our way home, and the next day, on the main road and the middle of the local shopping district, I noticed some interesting advertising taped to the ground.

A couple of example photos which are not safe for work due to nudity, are here and here. While children may be able to walk by this kind of thing on the street (not to mention the '19-rated' programmes shown on TV during the daytime), when it comes to doing some research on certain terms using Korean search engine Naver, what you get is this, so you can't put into the Internet what appears in three-foot high neon letters on a Busan street - an interesting Korean dichotomy of censorship.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent critique throughout this blog.

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