Cheonho Red Light District in Cheonho-dong

Cheonho-dong is home to one of the most major red light districts in Seoul. I have already written about 588 and Miari Texas. There has been talk about closing down all three of these red light districts over the years but at the moment they all remain in operation. Some of that probably has to do with the organization of working women who are against the destruction of their livelihoods though I’m sure there is much more at play that I don’t know about.

The Cheonho area in question is usually reached by people taking exits 3 or 4 out of the Cheonho subway station. The places is open around the clock though there usually aren’t many women working early in the morning. A few women set up shop in the afternoons but most work during the evenings and nights.

The Cheonho adult entertainment district is set up a lot like 588. A series of narrow streets best used for walking are lined with sliding glass doors and windows. Women sit behind the windows and beckon in guys who pass by outside. The women who work in Cheonho are free to refuse anyone they are not interested in and that does happen. It is usually done by a woman simply ignoring a guy passing by though at times they will simply turn their back. Most Korean customers are accepted as long as they don’t display any outward signs of madness. Guys from Asia also seem to be approved by most of the women. Western guys have less luck though many more women at Cheonho seem open to accepting white guys than the women in 588 who for the most part want nothing to do with them.

In the Cheonho red light district most of the storefronts are rather large and contain several women. They either sit or stand around talking to each other and playing with their phones in between customers though they are always on the lookout to see who is coming down the street next.

These gals work together and often with a much older ajummas who organizes things. At Miari Texas the mamasans stand in the streets and bring guys into their shops. At Cheonho the older female managers only seem to pop out of the woodwork to negotiate prices and get guys into the rooms. With western guys especially this is done with absolute quickness as the managers want to get the non-Korean customers out of view as soon as possible. Apparently the fear is that Korean customers will see a western guy in a shop and assume that all of the women working there have been tainted.

Many of the glass display rooms have curtains that can be closed if needed. In Amsterdam’s famous De Wallen red light district this is often done so that the little room can be used to provide services in private. At Cheonho this is rarely the case. It is usually used when a shop is closed or by women who don’t want to be seen because they’re doing something private or negotiating with a customer. Service tends to be rendered in small rooms that are usually located on upper floors. They have low lighting and are decorated like the rooms of Korean university students most likely because that’s the mentality that most of the women working hold. I’ve been told that some women sleep on premises but it is difficult to tell since things are kept rather tidy.

The women who work at Cheonho tend to be attractive and model themselves after the popular K-pop style with lots of cosmetics and hair care products. Plastic surgery is also common. What can only be seen up close however is that a lot of the women working at Cheonho are a little worse for wear. Under the makeup often lies a lot of wrinkles and such even though the women are for the most part in their twenties and thirties. This is all to be expected considering the working environment

The rates at Cheonho tend to be a little higher than the rates at other Seoul red light districts. I don’t know what the reason for that is. In terms of service they are all basically the same. Guys who are not Korean and who do not have a command of the local language usually pay around 150,000 Won ($135 USD) for a short time session which runs around fifteen minutes in length. Of course everything is up for negotiation and some men pay much more or much less.

Here’s a map of the Cheonho red light district.

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