Korean Business Entertainment (Part II)
In my last column, we covered the background of Korean business entertainment. If you missed that column, please go to the Korea Times Web site and search "Coyner" to view the first half of this overview.
The swankier business clubs are proper keul-leob or "club." These are actually what some consider to be a lighter version of the room salons, which we will explore later. These establishments work on a pre-determined number of hours ― usually two or three for a set room price that includes drinks and snacks at about W300,000+ per guest plus W200,000 tip for each de rigueur hostess per guest. So, you should budget at least W500,000 per visitor. (I should state from this point up the ladder, personal physical privacy becomes even less of a concern with the ladies with options often being available to spend more money with these women afterwards, elsewhere.)
The next higher station is occupied by the room salons. These are essentially the same as the clubs, but the women are younger and generally prettier, often with college degrees ― and are often able to speak English, Japanese and/or Chinese. The prices vary considerably depending on location, but including tips to the ladies, one does well to get away with as little of W500,000 per person and often the tab comes out to W700,000 or more.
Going up one more level, one encounters the yo-jeong which are combined restaurants and clubs. Traditionally these were the giseng-jip or Korean geisha houses of yore. Today, the girls may be just or even more beautiful, often well educated, but generally lacking in the cultural refinements of the nearly extinct giseng. Considering that one gets a nice dinner thrown in, these are pretty reasonable options compared to the values offered by the immediately lower establishments. The price per person runs roughly from W600,000 to W700,000. The ``gotcha'' is that there is normally a four-guest minimum.
At this lofty height, one wonders where one may go. But the real question is whom should you entertain at the top? Well, the rule of thumb is that anyplace that deals with professional female entertainment is appropriate to the department manager (bu-jang) level or below. When one needs to entertain true executives, it is usually a different game. In fact, it is a game called golf.
An ideal golfing entertainment takes place at a golf club not too far out of town ― ideally the course should not be much longer than an hour from Seoul or the departure point. Tee-off timing should be predicated on 18 holes, including a light lunch, not taking more than five hours. Then one hour should be devoted to showering and relaxing before piling back into the cars to arrive back in Seoul at about 7:00 PM.
When special holidays, such as New Year or Chuseok, roll around, gifts are bought for the purchasing company's employees. So in a sense, one may say these sales rebates are a form of entertainment and certainly are included in the costs of sale.
I hope the above gives the foreign reader at least a better understanding about what happens during after-hours business. It may possibly give some insight to home office visitors who may be aghast by how much money is used in this regard. One can discuss the merits and faults of the system, but the system is in place ― and it is business entertainment that keeps Korea's business world spinning.
Tom Coyner, a long-term resident in Korea, runs consulting firm Soft Landing Korea. Coyner can be reached on softlandingkorea.com.