A Look at the South Korean Sex Industry (Video)

August 11, 2017 by Justin Lehmiller


What is “normal” or “typical” when it comes to sex isn’t the same from one culture to the next. In fact, there’s incredible variation in sexual attitudes and practices throughout the world, and there’s a lot we can learn by adopting a cross-cultural lens.

Today, let’s take a look at sex in South Korea, a culture where sex is heavily stigmatized. Sex education is poor, open discussion about sexual matters is discouraged, and sex outside of marriage is highly frowned upon (despite the fact that the average age of first marriage is now 31 and most people live with their parents until they get married). So what does this mean for the sex lives of young adults?

For one thing, they don’t feel like they can have sex at home, so they have to go elsewhere—and that has led to a booming industry of so-called “love motels,” where various themed rooms can be rented by the hour (these also exist in Japan).

Also, while there aren’t a lot of formal opportunities to learn about and discuss sex, newlyweds who honeymoon in the most popular spot in South Korea—Jeju Island—can get an introduction to sex by wandering through the Loveland theme park. Loveland is full of sculptures depicting genitalia and sex acts (you can see a few photos from the park scattered throughout this post), and it’s designed to help break through cultural taboos about sex.

To learn more about sex in South Korea (including the massive underground sex work industry), check out the VICE Love Industries video below.

Disclaimer: I wouldn’t necessarily say that this video provides an unbiased look at sex in South Korea (you may notice this when you get to the sex work portion of the video–the way they handled that made me a bit uncomfortable); overall, however, it still does an effective job of highlighting cross-cultural variation in sexual attitudes and practices, which is why I think it’s worth a watch. Oh, and one helpful tip–you can skip through the photo shoot scene at the beginning without missing much of anything.

Watch more videos on the science of sex here.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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