In Korean, “방” (“bang” – pronounced as “bahng”) means “room”. In the Western world, “room” usually refers to some private spaces used by restricted groups of people, e.g., dining room, bathroom, bedroom and living room at home or conference room at the office. However, in South Korea, you can find a lot of “방” (“bang”) which are places for public entertainment. Let’s talk about some of them in this post.
In Korean dramas, you can often come across Jjimjilbang which is the Korean-style sauna house. Apart from enjoying the sauna, spa and massage, people can also relax and chat with families and friends, enjoy snacks and drinks, watch the TV, or just sleep on the floors. Some big ones may also have other facilities like fitness gym and karaoke. So, it is a favourite place for Koreans to enjoy their leisure time with families and friends. As the Jjimjilbang is open 24 hours a day, some tourists who arrive early in the morning (when the shops are not yet open and the hotels are not yet ready for check-in) may go to the Jjimjilbang to take a rest first. You may get a glimpse of the Jjimjilbang by watching this video.
This is another type of “bang” often seen in Korean dramas. Noraebang is the Korean-style karaoke and is a favourite place for families, friends and colleagues to hang out with each other. As you may see in some Korean dramas, after the boss and his staff have finished the dinner, they often go to the Noraebang to have fun together. The Noraebang offers songs in different languages, e.g., Korean, Chinese, English, Japanese, etc. So, you may still enjoy yourself in the Noraebang even if you are not a Korean speaker. One interesting feature of Noraebang is that after you finish a song, the screen will show your score – however, from my experience, this score does not seem to have anything to do with your singing talent and it seems that you can score a very high mark by just keeping on screaming words into the microphone. You may get a glimpse of the Noraebang by watching this video.
PC방 (PC Bang)
PC Bang is the Korean-style internet cafe which provides computer facilities and internet access. Instead of enjoying coffee in a relaxed way, Koreans usually play computer games in the PC Bang. People who don’t have access to computer and/or internet at home may also make use of the PC Bang. In some Korean dramas, you may see some kids being caught by their parents or teachers playing computer games in the PC Bang instead of going to school or studying at home. As some kids are not allowed to play computer games at home, they may do so in the PC Bang. As the PC Bang also offers food and drinks which you can eat/drink in your own seat, you can spend the whole day surfing the internet and/or playing the computer games in the PC Bang if you wish. You may have a quick tour of the PC Bang by watching this video.
DVD방 (DVD Bang)
You can watch movies in DVD in private rooms in the DVD Bang – you just pick the DVD movies and then watch them in the room assigned to you. Apart from Korean movies, there are also movies from other countries for you to choose from. Watching movies is one of the favourite pastimes for Koreans and is also a favourite activity of dating couples. As the rooms in the DVD Bang offer more privacy than the seats in the cinema, many dating couples like to go to the DVD Bang to watch movies together. You can have a quick look at the DVD Bang by watching this video.
As indicated by the prefix “multi” in the name, the Multibang provides a variety of activities which you may enjoy in different types of “bang” in one place, e.g., watching TV/movies, singing songs with karaoke machines, playing video/computer games, surfing the internet, etc. Like other types of “bang”, the Multibang offers snacks and drinks so that you can spend the whole day in it if you wish. You may get a glimpse of the Multibang by watching this video.
Have you been to any of the above “bang” in South Korea before? If not, you should try to do so when you are in South Korea to experience the Korean “bang” culture.
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“Seoul Bang-Culture“, VisitSeoul.net, 2015-08-04
Keith Kim, “Wondering What to Do in Seoul? Try These Very Korean Activities (Bang Culture)“, Seoulistic