More Koreans looking to spend time aloneThe rise of young single-person households has bred a new entertainment culture designed to cater to individuals. In the past, entertainment options were designed for groups, but increasingly customers are looking for activities that they can enjoy on their own.
Two of the most popular options for individual entertainment are personal karaoke rooms and comic book cafes.
Although not new options, operators have recently refurbished the facilities to attract more visitors.
The personal karaoke rooms, typically small in size to accommodate one or two people, offer a budget option for customers who do not want to pay the premiums attached to a full size karaoke room.
A 20 year old man surnamed Lee, who works at a large hospital in Seoul, visits a personal karaoke room once a week after work. Each trip costs an average of 1,000 won (86 cents) for three songs.
“I can sing the songs that I want to sing by myself whenever I go to a personal karaoke room, and I can enjoy it easily,” he said.
Originally, the personal karaoke rooms were tiny boxes found in arcades, often full of cigarette smoke. Today personal karaoke rooms are generally clean and contain much newer equipment.
“Recently, stores have started offering a premium service at a cheap cost,” said Kim Tae-su, CEO of karaoke room operator Honggildongjeon Karaoke.
Kim noted a growing trend in honbap (a Korean neologism meaning eating alone) and honsul (a Korean neologism meaning drinking alcohol alone).
“The number of people who come alone to personal karaoke rooms is increasing and they account for 40 percent of our customers,” he continued “The age of people who use the personal karaoke rooms varies from teenagers that spend 1,000 to 2,000 won to office workers that spending 10,000 won”
Due to the recent popularity, personal karaoke rooms have started to open across the city. Within 1km (0.6 miles) of Seoul National University Station there are now five personal karaoke room venues targeting thrifty students.
Another option for customers looking to relax on their own are comic book cafes. The cafes are equipped with a range of comic books and sell simple food such as instant ramen and drinks.
The only option for comic book fans used to be to visit a comic book library which operated a rental system with customers paying up front and renting comics for a set period of time. Recently cafes have opened to offer comic books without rental limits and to serve drinks and snacks on site to encourage customers to spend time in the cafe rather than taking the comics home.
Today’s comic books cafes have beds, sofas and comfortably furnished rooms for customers who want to stay for a while and rest.
Comic book cafes have become especially popular with college students who are looking for a cheap opportunity to relax and take a break. One college student, surnamed Jang, opts to spend six hours a week visiting comic book cafes to relax, read comics and eat instant ramen, all for less than 10,000 won.
“The price of comic book libraries is 600 to 1,000 won per book,” Jang explained. “ I think I read three comic books in an hour, so it is much more cost effective for me to go to a comic book cafe that does not charge per book.”
BY HA JUN-SU [email@example.com]