I meant to write about this months ago. Way back in my winter of unemployment, I finally made it to a Korean night club. Night-uh, they call them. This particular night club was in the Suyu area of Seoul, in Gangbuk-gu, and is one of the largest in north Seoul. One would think that after the thousands (literally) of days I’ve spent in Seoul, I would have been to one sooner. Like the sauna, eating dog, going to Everland, and having a shrieking Korean girl chucking her high heel at me during a break-up, it was one of those quintessentially Korean experiences that I had participate in. For the record, I’m on the fence about the sauna, I definitely want to go to Everland, I’m a no-go on dog soup, and, while I’m lukewarm at best on the notion of getting hit in the head with a stiletto, it would be nice to have a girl in my life who cares enough to whip a shoe at me.
Korean night clubs are not like those you know. Hell, they aren’t like those I know, and I live in Korea and go to clubs here all the time. Going in, I knew the basic rules. Everyone sits at a table and orders massive amounts of expensive drinks. There are beer sets and whiskey sets, the latter considerably more pricy. Whiskey sets come with a plate of fruit or some sort of light snack. At the club, guys decorate their tables with as much money worth of booze as they can afford. Similarly to clubs the world over, girls don’t pay for drinks. Once dudes have decorated their table, the waiter (and there are roughly 437 waiters in these clubs. Always waiters, never waitresses) brings girls to the guys’ tables. This is known locally as “booking.” The girls aren’t whores, at least not on paper, but just regular girls out for a night out. Of course, the girls that come in are fully aware of how things work, and know that they can be snatched up from their table by a waiter and taken to a dudes’ table at any time. I use the plural because Korean nightclubs are not navigable solo. Only groups of males or females go.
I happened to be with a mixed group. By mixed, I mean really mixed. It was me, my buddy Martin, his Burmese-Italian girlfriend Kiki, a blonde girl from Wisconsin named Nicki, a middle-aged Pakistani dude named Khan, and his 17 year old son. Nobody was Korean, but a few people I was with spoke Korean fluently. As these clubs are prohibitively expensive for English teacher scum such as myself, a primary reason we were there was because Khan was paying. Because we had girls and minors and non-Koreans at our table, the waiters were in no hurry to “book” us, so I never bothered with it.
So what was wrong with this club? Pretty much everything. The dance floor was a disaster. At its best moments, there was still plenty of space between everyone on the floor. In fact, if everyone on the floor started indiscriminately waving around light sabres, we would have never heard the awesome sound of a light sabre collision. The DJ was a brain-dead fuck. His playlist seemed to consist of seven songs at the most, and he would periodically yell into his microphone for no apparent reason while pausing the song. Sometimes, a group of professional dancers would take to the stage. This group consisted of three dudes. Y’know, because everybody wants to watch a group of dudes dance. As a doughy white guy with the dance moves you would expect from a doughy white guy, the last thing I need is some fit gay dudes in tank tops dancing in unison.
The dance floor situation got even worse. See, the dance floor at this club isn’t even always active. Most of the time, it isn’t. As there is no proper walk-up bar in the club, it’s in the club’s financial interests that people spend most of their time at their tables ordering drinks. The dance floor would occasionally become about as crowded as it got, and then there would be a nearly imperceptible change in the music’s volume and EVERYBODY would leave the floor. Everyone would sit in their seats for half an hour or so, then there would be another imperceptible music change and people would slowly begin to file onto the floor. After 20 minutes, the floor would reach its relative peak and things would begin to look mildly interesting, then the change would happen again and the floor would clear faster than if someone had shit their pants.
At the finest moment of the night, the music had changed and the tide of people swiftly rushed out. We decided we weren’t putting up with that. Martin, Kiki, Nicki, and I stayed on the floor even though everyone left. We kept dancing, at least if you can call what I do “dancing.” Two minutes later, the tide came back in, everyone returned to the floor. Victory! Marty and I simultaneously cheered “white people!” to each other, then attempted to high five and missed miserably. Hey, if whitey is good at one thing, its looking uncool and missing high fives.
After that lone victory, I’d like to say the night turned around, but it didn’t. The music kept changing. People kept leaving the floor. My mood turned more and more foul, though my glass of whiskey grew no less bottomless. Eventually, when the DJ would yell into the mic for no reason, I would shout curses back at him.
The final lesson? Though it was very kind for Khan to treat us, the Night-uh is best avoided, even if someone else is buying.