While visiting Wolchulsan National Park, our tour group stayed at a yeogwan, or travel inn, an establishment one step below a motel in the one- to two-star range. They’re generally clean and very cheap because they offer few frills, if any at all. Many yeogwan can be rented for as little as 10,000 Korean won, or about $10, per hour. The yeogwon where we stayed cost just $30 per night. The room was plenty big for my wife, me, and my son, who took to the floor with a blanket and pillow. Yeogwon are definitely much nicer–and cheaper–than their American counterparts, many of which are snidely referred to as "roach motels."
In Korea, some yeogwon are affectionately known as "love motels," or inns that cater to a more amorous crowd, who often rent them by the hour for fun behind closed doors. We happened to stay at one of these love motels while on our trip, a yeogwon called, "Soft Motel." (see photo album) Our stay was much more platonic than one might expect because we shared the room with our young son, who wasn’t about to discover the hiddens secrets of a yeogwon. We weren’t subjected to glittering globes, mirrors on the ceiling, lavendar lighting, or velvet paintings, but we did spend the night in a room with pink walls, heart-shaped furniture, and matching his/her robes. It’s a place that would have made Barbie and Ken proud. We aren’t the only ones who have resorted to staying at love motels–some delegates to last year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Busan also stayed in love motels because they had no other lodging options.
Love motels are a bit quirky. Then again, you shouldn’t expect much staying in a place that costs $30 per night! For one, the shower doesn’t have a curtain, and the bath towels are the size of postage stamps. Soap, shampoo, and other toiletries are provided, but they are reused by patrons and left with the room. The cable television, as I soon learned, broadcasts a plethora of landmine programming when it comes to shows suitable to children. Moreover, the floor is covered with a gaudy sheet of plastic that simulates the look of hardwood flooring. The whole experience was a bit cheesy, but it was still decent lodging considering the yeogwon’s proximity to the park and great price. At least the bed was comfortable.