So, this comes as a bit of a revelation. We're tagging along with some ajummas and, probably forgetting our presence, one of them starts talking about how much she charges her husband for sex when she's not in the mood. Erm, sorry, what?
Demonstrating a complete lack of shock her companions chimed in with their rates - 300,000 won (about £161) seemed to be the going rate although 1,000,000 won (about £538) was not unheard of, under which circumstances a major shopping trip usually followed the next day.
The thinking among the assembled ajummas was that it was better that they acquiesced to their husbands' appetites and compromised by imposing a charge rather than have their husband paying someone else, which was all very well and good for the ajummas, but it didn't look like such a good deal for their partners, considering the alternatives were probably a bit cheaper and more entertaining. Had we just bumped into a Korean version of the women from Sex and the City? Apparently not, because discrete enquiries afterwards suggested that this is not an unfamiliar concept to some older Korean women, and for the most part it really is a business transaction rather than a way of spicing up their sex lives.
Perhaps this is a reflection on an previously emancipated female society, which in Korea's rapid transition to Asia's third biggest economy has suddenly found itself emboldened to make previously unthinkable demands in return for what was formerly seen as a wife's 'duty'. At the same time, the legacy of hundreds of years of tradition mean that divorce still carries a considerable social stigma among certain age-groups, although this is beginning to change. For example, I heard the story of a man who had a job where he was respected in his organisation, and who believed that if he divorced it would reflect so badly on him and affect his career that the option was just unthinkable. By the same token, many wives amongst the older generations didn't work once they had children, giving them limited financial independence. It conspires to create a large number of people who are stuck in marriages they feel they are compelled to maintain because of complex social and financial circumstances. Perhaps this goes at least a little way towards explaining why charging your husband or paying your wife for sex goes on amongst some couples here.
Korean tags: 아줌마, 성욕, 남편, 아내