Condomania in the heart of Seoul
Although sex continues to sell the world over, society on the Korean peninsula has been rather sluggish in cashing in on its profitable appeal. But despite South Korea’s deeply-rooted conservative standards, a few sex paraphernalia shops are trying to make a mark in Seoul's greater metropolitan area. One such shop is Condomania, and you don't have to be a linguist to know what it specializes in.
From the outside, there really isn’t much that distinguishes Condomania from its surrounding neighbors. But once inside the little shop, located beside Hongik University in one of Seoul’s trendiest districts, you'll see it sells all kinds of colorful and flavorful condoms together with other sexy goods.
His first Condomania venture which opened near Ewha University in December 2005 closed not too long ago, but Condomania's owner Lee Sung-chan feels its new Hongdae location was “the most natural choice" because of the close proximity to the University and local nightlife.
Women buying more condoms
Sung-chan says he is not in the business of condoning reckless sexual behavior, but rather caters to the inevitable. With all the nightlife swelling up near the campus, and with a great number of his clientele being female students –- males here can be quite shy when it comes to this sort of thing -– he believes it would be a mistake to look the other way.
According to Condomania manager Dae Kyoung Kim, “You don’t normally see men buying our products. Women are more apt to looking after themselves, as they understand some of the consequences that may arise from unprotected sex.”
Sex still hush-hush in South Korea
Sung-chan's shop may be the start of a new age in Korea's sexual liberation, but he feels the country is still very prudish compared to countries like Japan. “Korea tries to promote this image of being involved in sex education for adolescents and so on, but in the end, it’s still a very hush-hush topic.”
People here do appear willing to adapt, however. Its liberal longings have never been more apparent than in the growing number of scantily clad all-female pop groups ruling the music charts these days. But the laws are not necessarily turning in their favor.
The quest for sexual freedom
South Korea continues to categorize, or classify condoms, diaphragms and contraceptive pills as “medical devices”, making it increasingly difficult for Sung-chan to circumvent import restrictions in order to sell toys and other erotica. Regardless, once inside, customers find that what Condomania lacks in size, it certainly makes up for with an extensive selection of products. Many brands taking up shelf space, such as the popular Okamoto and Skinless 2000 series condoms, are imported from Japan while others come from a range of countries.
Customers can even grab condoms packaged in tiny, colorful milk cartons. From fur-lined handcuffs, Karma Sutra manuals and lollipop condoms to various lubricants, French ticklers and outrageous lingerie, a lot of ground can be covered here in the quest for sexual freedom.
Condomania's staff is very friendly, though somewhat reserved, and can assist in limited English.
Condomania address: 360-5 1st Floor, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea, tel: 337-9139
For those people that happen to be shopping for goodies on the last Friday of the month, be sure to check out Hongdae Club Day, where 15,000 won gets you in to twenty-one clubs throughout the area, including M2 and Joker Red.