Here today, gone tomorrow for a mega room salon

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Here today, gone tomorrow for a mega room salon

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The Gangnam District Office in southern Seoul will shut down what is supposed to be the largest “room salon,” or hostess bar, in Korea for a month for providing illegal prostitutes to customers.

The room salon YTT III, which stands for Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, is located on the third basement floor of the Seoul Stars Hotel in Gangnam District. In May, police raided YTT III and found that some of its hostesses were also working as prostitutes.

Its sister clubs YTT I and YTT II, which are on the two basement floors above YTT III in the hotel, came out clean during the police raid in May and are not affected.

The YTT bars reportedly have over 150 rooms and employ more than 500 hostesses.

Korea has a reputation for a business culture in which important business deals are made while drinking in dim, smoky and often very pricey room salons. The hostesses pour expensive drinks for the guests and drink and chat with them.

On Sunday, Representative Ahn Min-seok of the opposition Democratic United Party claimed that 1.4 trillion won ($1.23 billion) was charged last year on corporate credit cards for nighttime entertainment purposes in Korea, based on information given by the National Tax Service. Ahn said 923.7 billion won was spent in room salons, or 65.3 percent of the total.

The district office’s move follows the prosecution’s request for an arrest warrant against YTT’s operator and two of his associates on charges of providing illegal prostitutes, evading taxes and bribing authorities.

In a separate case, the Ramada Seoul Hotel in Gangnam District will have its business suspended for three months by the district office for providing a place for illegal prostitution in another room salon, named Blue, on its premises. The Ramada was forced to shut its doors last June and July for prostitution following a three year legal battle prompted by a police raid in April 2009.

The administrative measures against both YTT III and the Ramada will be applied after hearings in which the business owners can appeal the punishment. The hearing process for the Ramada is set to last until Sept. 13, while YTT III will make its case by Oct. 4.

“We can’t rule out a possibility that the troubled businesses will file a lawsuit against the measure or attempt to pay fines in return for a suspension,” said an official at the district office.

By Kang Jin-kyu [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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