Clubbing in Seoul, Korea

Those of you who know me or read my blog frequently, know I love dancing and have a special place in my heart for clubbing in Seoul. There are many reasons and if you keep reading you will find out why. But this post wasn’t scheduled to be written for a while. So why are you reading it now?

I read a lot – books, newspapers, blogs, e-newsletters, basically anything I can get my hands on. I also spend a little too much time on Twitter and have Google Alerts on a variety of topics because I never know when something might spark my interest or a new blog post. A little while ago I came across an article, written by a Korean who is/was living and studying in Toronto, which talked about the differences between clubbing in Toronto and in Seoul. Or rather the differences between clubbing in Canada versus Korea. The article was well-written and I agreed with certain aspects of it but disagreed with others strongly enough that I thought I would write a reverse perspective. This post is my view on the differences in clubbing in Korea versus Canada. Some of my observations will be similar, some will disagree and some will be entirely new. Stay tuned for a foray into one of my favourite things.

Oh, while I will mainly talk about Toronto and Seoul as that is where the bulk of my experience lies (plus they are easy to compare), I also lived for a year in Ulsan (a smaller city in Korea) and went to clubs there, in Busan and in Daegu (two other Korean cities). As for Canada, I’m also familiar with clubs in Peterborough and Montreal. I’m no expert but my love of dancing – and the fact that I generally don’t drink and dance (it totally throws off my rhythm) – means I can speak with some authority on this subject.

The first difference that was mentioned is that there are lineups in Canada but that they are unusual in Korea. I will mostly agree with this, in that lineups tend to be longer in Canada. But short/quick lineups are common at more popular clubs. The security search isn’t unique to Canada but it certainly never happens (in my experience anyways) in Korea.

The second difference that was mentioned was the entrance fee. On this point I completely disagree. The fee – whether it’s $5, $10 or $15 – depends on the club, not the country. I’ve paid all kinds of different entrance fees in both countries. And the first drink is sometimes included but not often in Korea – again, it depends on the club.

The third point refers to the specific club in Canada having more than one floor and more than one DJ. Again this is indicative of that specific club. But one interesting point I would add to this point is most clubs I have been to in Canada generally only have one DJ, who plays all night (unless it’s a special event or promotion). In the larger clubs in Korea, especially in Seoul, the DJs play sets of perhaps 2-4 hours so if you stay at one club all night – you will see more than one DJ, sometimes as many as four. Q-vo, my favourite club in Seoul does this and while all the DJs are playing the same kind of music, you can definitely tell them apart.

But the main reason I was inspired to write this post was the fourth difference mentioned. The writer says that they were shocked with the style of dancing – they saw people dancing “doggy-style”. This made me laugh as Koreans have a very similar form of dancing called 부비부비 (booby booby) so I have no idea why this could be called a difference. Okay, for the most part it does seem a little more innocent in Korea and perhaps a little more sexual here but when some strange guy comes up behind me in a club – I’m going to move away regardless of what country I’m in. And yeah, it does happen in Korea – although more so in Seoul than the rest of the country.

So are there any differences?

Oh yeah! The best one – clubs are open until 5:00 or 6:00 am so I can literally dance the night away. And I did more times than I could count. When I returned to Canada I felt a little cheated that I had to stop dancing at 2:00 am. I’ve often wondered if the late closing is because of Koreans love for splitting their nights out into three stages – which is usually (1) dinner (with drinks); (2) drinks (with more food); and (3) noraebang (private karaoke) or clubbing.

Another difference that I noticed was the lack of dress codes or very casually enforced dress codes in Korea. In Toronto many clubs have dress codes of “dress to impress” but this isn’t true of most in Korea. Jeans were acceptable everywhere I went there. I was in heaven! Don’t get me wrong – people didn’t dress sloppy but it wasn’t the contest that it sometimes seems here. You could dress basically however you wanted (although you never saw any girl dress too sexy or provocatively which you do see a lot in Canada).

While most Canadian clubs have coat checks – especially in the winter – many Korean clubs have small lockers where you can put your stuff. I loved this as it meant I could safely store my purse, coat and a pair of flip-flops or other comfy shoes (and therefore dance all night in cute heels).

But I think my favourite difference was that Korean guys seem to like to dance more than their western counterparts. The dance floor at any of the Korean clubs I went to was always at least 50% guys and many of them could actually dance. It meant I always had lots of friends to go dancing with. 🙂

What do you think? What differences (or surprising similarities) stood for you between Canadian and Korean clubs?

Please note: I didn’t touch on Korean “booking” clubs because that’s a whole other post!


Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

%d bloggers like this: