Controversial Room Cafe in Korea: A Place for Teenagers to Indulge in Forbidden Desires


Mushroom it room cafe seems to make the South Korean government dizzy. The reason is that this resting place is mostly used by teenagers for sexual activity.

When you hear room cafe, maybe a traveler will imagine a place to hang out that sells various foods and drinks. However, the room cafe seems to offer more facilities than that.

Apart from selling coffee or cakes like an ordinary cafe, there are also rooms for visitors to rest there for rent. The room is similar to a hotel room with a narrower size.

In a room measuring about 3 square meters, provided with a bed, TV and bathroom facilities. This room can be rented by the hour. It costs around 10,000 won or around Rp. 117 thousand.

With prices that are cheaper than hotels, many people also take advantage of room cafes to chat with their closest people. Moreover, there is no minimum age limit to rent a room cafe, so this place is popular with school children.

Reported from Korea Herald, Tuesday (28/3/2023) this room cafe is commonly found in the environment around schools and campuses. This makes it easy for teenagers to access the room cafe.

Unfortunately, these free rules and cheap prices are often used by teenagers for illegal activities. They usually rent a cafe room with their partner and channel their sexual desires.

“Once you come in there, you never know what’s going on inside,” said a 17-year-old student who has rented the room cafe twice to drink beer and watch movies.

“Some girls prefer to come there if they want to do intimate things with their boyfriends freely and without getting caught,” he continued.

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The government thinks room cafe is dangerous

According to a column written by a police officer in the Chosun Ilbo media, the police had actually been monitoring the practice of room cafes and found that school students had sex there. This is clearly discussed by teenagers in the online community.

The students who came there weren’t just high school level. There are also customers who are junior high school students. According to a survey from the Ministry of Gender Equality in 2020, as many as 14 percent of teenagers said they had visited a room cafe.

An official at the Ministry of Gender Equality said the government was worried about the existence of room cafes because the business provides room facilities with beds and can be locked. Of course, this is a location that is considered safe for teenagers to have sex.

Meanwhile, the government itself has categorized businesses like this as inappropriate for teenagers since 2011. “Legal regulations have been in place since 2011, but whenever controversy arises, facilities change their names and use expedient methods. Room Cafe is not easy to crack down on because such shops registered as a public restaurant, unlike multi-room and DVD rooms,” said Youth Protection Office head Kim Sung Byuk.

Kim added that similar facilities had been reduced significantly due to the intensified crackdown, but appeared to have resurfaced recently.

Room cafe is not only about sex

Amid growing criticism of room cafes, some owners have complained that their business is not all about teenage hedonism.

“We do have a lot of teenage customers, but we strictly prohibit customers from drinking inside, and always keep our facilities clean,” said a man who owns a room cafe.

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He emphasized that his cafe did not commit any deviations, but admitted that he could not monitor everything that happened behind the door.

Another room cafe owner surnamed Kim, who runs a business in Hongdae, said that not all room cafes invite teenagers to do inappropriate things.

“There are very few businesses that have locks or beds. It’s unfair to denigrate every room cafe because of those few exceptions,” Kim said.

Adolescent sex education is in the spotlight

Meanwhile, the phenomenon of the room cafe as a location for teenagers to have sex is seen by experts as a momentum for the government to improve the sex education system in schools. Just like Asian countries in general, discussing sex is something that is still considered taboo to do.

The director of the Institute of Empathy & Communication Sex Education, Cho Ara explained that schools need not only teach students to protect themselves from sexual violence but also teach realistic consequences and deep contemplation about sex.

“We must allow youth to naturally discuss sex itself, as well as inform them about practical issues such as contraception, pregnancy, child care and abortion. In addition, we need to provide an environment in which adolescents can reflect on what they really want, ” he said.

Agreeing with Cho Ara, Sejong University Professor Bae Jungwon pointed out that children have been exposed to sexual content on the internet, but they cannot discuss sex in a healthy way because proper sex education has not been carried out.

“Simply scolding teenagers by saying, ‘Don’t go to the room cafe,’ or ‘Don’t do that,’ without explaining the consequences of teen sex or unprotected sex will only make our children ignorant and unprotected,” said Bae.

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