The Korea Herald


Seoul city to crack down on teen use of 'Room cafes'

By Lee Jung-youn

Published : Feb. 2, 2023 - 14:07

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Pedestrians walk by a banner advertising a room cafe in Mapo-gu, Seoul, which mentions Pedestrians walk by a banner advertising a room cafe in Mapo-gu, Seoul, which mentions "Adolescents are allowed." (Lee Jung-youn/The Korea Herald)

The Seoul Metropolitan Government will launch a special crackdown on “room cafes,” which provide private closed spaces similar to hotel rooms, even to teenagers, officials said Thursday.

Municipal officials, police and a civic group will participate in the crackdown from Feb 3 to 13.

The facilities called "room cafes" or "multi-rooms," are businesses that provide private spaces, simple snacks, and drinks. They are usually registered as ordinary cafes or general restaurants, but there have been complaints that some room cafes are being used by teenagers for sex and drinking.

In some cases, room cafe spaces have been transformed to a form that does not differ significantly from hotel rooms, even providing beds and separate bathrooms.

Under the Youth Protection Act, teenagers cannot enter room cafes with enclosed spaces, and this prohibition must be made clear at the entrance. But many room cafes are operating without the notification, and accepting minors.

This crackdown will focus on areas around elementary, middle, and high schools and areas where adult oriented businesses are concentrated. A corrective order, such as an order to attach a youth prohibition mark, will be issued under the Youth Protection Act against businesses found to have broken the law. Fines and prison sentences can also be imposed.

Owners of room cafes and multi-rooms who hire teenagers to work there can be sentenced to up to three years in prison or fined up to 30 million won ($24,600). Owners who allow teenagers use the facility can be sentenced to up to two years in prison or fined up to 20 million won.

Lee Hoe-seung, director of the Seoul Metropolitan Government's lifelong education bureau, said, "The recent increase in room cafes operated by expedient means is raising concerns about teenagers's exposure to inappropriate environments."

“Seoul Metropolitan Government will keep working to protect children from harmful environments, and will continue its conduct crackdown and campaigns,” said Lee.