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Maximum Korea Review


Thu 10 May 2018, 9:00am–12:00pm

Where: Hotel New York, 122 York St, Launceston, Launceston & Northern

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Admission: Free
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Listed by: Senperfect

If you want to have fun in Korea, you'll need to know the letters for the word bang (pronounced "bhang") or room. Like the signs that advertise them, bang come in all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors, but in every case, they are a temporary, private sanctuary far from the maddening crowds. I got my first Korean kiss in a video bang, a tender, heartwarming experience that I shall never forget.
Kim Jong-il's Hair

I have done research for this book and shown parts of it to friends on other continents from a PC bang. I was hand-fed dried squid, had beer poured for me and bonded with my dear old students from LG-EDS in a room-salon bang. ,When I was making the first edition of my magazine Bug I made arrangements to interview a kisaeng (Korean geisha or high-class hostess) in a tabang (old-style tearoom or cafe). I have perused all sorts of Korean comics in a manhwabang, and once sang a virtuoso rendition of "Light My Fire" to three perplexed young girls from the countryside in a noraebang.

And although most Koreans would find it rather odd, if not downright unseemly, I have chosen to make my home here in Korea in a yogwan bang. I can meditate in my bang, read in my bang, or light a few candles, put on Grooverider's new album and turn it into my own private disco. That is the whole point of bang: once you are inside of one, almost anything goes, and no one can do or say otherwise. I bet if there were no bang in Korea, the whole country would self-destruct in 5 seconds.
I have compiled a list of a dozen different types of specialized bang, dating from the Choson period (1392-1910) right up to the IMF era (1997-?).

There are, of course, rooms all over the world, ranging from the very private (bedrooms, bathrooms and so on) to the very public (classrooms, courtrooms, waiting rooms and the like). These are not to be confused with commercial or customized bang, which provide a variety of facilities and/or services that one generally—but not always—pays to use for a limited period of time. While the word bang is occasionally used to describe smaller retail stores, these are also of a different category, since their main business is selling goods or commodities, rather than renting out space or offering specific services. The kind of bang that I am talking about exist collectively as a dreamy parallel world to the storm and stress of traditional Korean society: their explosive popularity in recent years can be directly linked to the ongoing war between Old Man Confucius and the invading forces of Westernization and Individual Freedom.

But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves. In all probability, the oldest type of specialized, commercial bang in Korea is the kisaeng bang, where men of means and leisure have amused themselves in discreet privacy for hundreds of years. Moving into this century, tabang have served as the common man's answer to kisaeng bang since the colonial period: along with drinks, music and an intimate, semi-private environment, customers can enjoy the close company of female servers and, if the price is right, additional charms and services. Yogwan and norumbang (gambling rooms) also date from this period: while the word yogwan translates literally as "traveler's house," these have long doubled as quick-stop love hotels and private party rooms; norumbang can be wholly private, or operate as unadvertised businesses, but in either case are strictly illegal. Of more recent vintage are noraebang ("singing rooms" or karaoke boxes), which originated in Japan, as did chonhwabang, which provide phone-equipped cubicles for men to receive calls and arrange dates with women on the make.