Korea’s sex shops are booming in business as the stores go more mainstream. The sex shops which were once staples hidden away in back alleys are now emerging as legitimate businesses in South Korea as new laws allowed sex toys to be imported in. The sex shop industry is taking off as the subject of sex becomes less taboo in the usually sexually conservative country reports Vice. In the video, Vice interviewed several sex shop owners.
Hyungil Kang the owner of the Red Container in S. Korea was once an office worker. He discovered his friend was making a lot of money by owning a sex shop so he decided to start his own business up. Unfortunately, he knew that the stores would carry a negative stigma so he wanted to change that. “When we talk about adult goods in Korea, the first impression is always negative. We have a Confucianist tradition. People are embarrassed to express their sexuality,” he tells Vice.
Kang goes on to tell how the old sex shops were hidden away with blacked out windows.
However, he believes those shops are dying out with more clean stores taking the front, “Now the times are changing. I made Red Container with two objectives. First for the young people who were very interested in sex. I wanted to make an adult goods space that they can visit without being embarrassed. Second, there were no adult goods stores in popular places. I wanted to see if it was a viable option. So I tested it.” He called his sex toy shop Red Container and now he has 14 stores making it the biggest sex shop franchise in Korea. Each store brings in around $70000 a month.
The second sex store owner interviewed by Vice was Hyeyoung Kang who got the idea to open her store after she had a repulsive experience in a sex store in Korea.
The sex store she went to was seedy and dirty. Plus she said that she couldn’t touch any of the sex toys because they were all sealed up. Additionally, she saw in the corner a curtained up room labeled “test room” where she saw a man come out adjusting his pants.
She fled the shop right after and thought about creating a nice clean sex store. She called her store Pioona and she says it’s “female friendly” and “human-friendly”.
Stepping into her store is liking stepping into a bookstore. The products are displayed on shelves where people could play with them. The store is well lit and she tries to make it as least embarrassing as possible.
Kang doesn’t want to just stop there. She wants to educate people on sex and take the shame out of it. She recalls one of her customers who was very interested in using sex toys but had trouble with the guilt. “They’re very uncomfortable touching themselves. And I had this young girl, early twenties and she said, ‘You know what I really want to try this toy but is it really okay for me touch myself.” Kang ended up giving her a free toy and the girl came back and bought more but still had the guilt with her. So Kang plans on creating a workshop to help people get rid of their shame associated with sex.
Sex columnist and sex toy maker, Eun Ha Sun, tells Vice that the sexual perspective of women in Korea is seen as, “…problematic in Korea. It’s perceived as wrong.”
And while she thinks it’s getting better she believes it has a far way to go and she wouldn’t go as so far to call it a “revolution” at least not yet.
The Korean culture and attitudes about sex are changing and with this change, Hyeyoung Kang wishes the government would stop being so conservative and put in regulations on sex toys to protect customers from potentially dangerous products.