My months in a Korean love hotel
Editor’s note: Here’s a fun read from the Stars and Stripes archives. We thought you might get a chuckle or two out of it. And if you have a funny story of your own to share, pass it our way.
For about two months, Room 1003 of the Come Inn hotel served as both my temporary housing quarters and office. Many of my stories about North Korean aggression, soldier trials, base relocation and more were crafted under the pink neon light hanging over the complimentary computer in my bedroom.
This wasn’t my original plan. Before my arrival at Camp Red Cloud as Area I’s new reporter in February 2006, the Army demolished my office on post to make way for a new bus station. The temporary replacement office lacked a few trivial things, like a phone and a reliable Internet connection.
Comparatively, the Come Inn was like an executive suite with a bedroom and kitchenette.
Sure, there was the official Gyeonggi Province Tourist Hotel nearby. But for the same price, my room had character.
And by character, I’m mostly talking about the body-contoured hot tub with red and blue disco backlighting. But I was disappointed that after a week, the maids stopped leaving me bubble bath.
I would have asked for more, but I could not find the words for “Excuse me, may I have more bubble bath?” in my Lonely Planet Korean-English pocket dictionary. Which is strange, since the book does teach you how to ask a waiter if he has seen any North Korean infiltrators (Page 234).
The room décor was futuristic, in that Jetsons-style of what people in 1967 thought the future would look like.
Silvery wallpaper surrounded the shiny, neon-blue light fixtures, underscored by wood accents and an aquatic scene under a glass-topped bar table. A small glass box above the water cooler sterilized the drinking glasses with
ultraviolet light, which, while probably a good idea, got me thinking far too much about the sanitary needs of the clientele.
I saw few other patrons at the Come Inn, though I knew they were there. Customers were usually discreet about their activity. They parked underground and covered up their cars to hide their license plates.
Every now and then, a couple didn’t need the privacy. After a commissary trip, I shared an elevator with a 50-ish businessman and a girl who could have been his daughter, but wasn’t.
I gave him a quick look and a nod. He looked at my bags and gave me the “What’s he going to do here with two Russet potatoes and a bag of washed spinach” look, like I was somehow the freaky one in this situation.
Since my entertainment options were more limited than those of the other patrons, I got to know a lot of the room’s details. For example, the toilet came with a control panel that played a little song. Mozart, I think.
The bed’s control panel was even more sophisticated. I always wondered who bought those Craftmatic adjustable beds that used to be advertised so heavily between 1980s morning game shows. Turns out they’re in Uijeongbu.
There also was a complimentary DVD menu. I couldn’t read the movie titles, though I was told that one of them translated loosely to “Ajumma Fever While Husband’s Away 3.”
Since the idea didn’t appeal to me, I was left to seek entertainment with the bigscreen television’s satellite programming.
Along with CNN and a few movie channels, it gave me a chance to catch up on the latest Britney Spears-inspired Korean music videos. I also enjoyed watching South Korean rappers tell me about growing up “hawd” on the mean streets of Hongdae.
I moved out of the hotel with a tinge of sadness. After two months, I probably earned some sort of world record for solo length of stay at a love hotel. I know I’ll never again be able to walk by a disco hot tub, a classicalmusic-playing toilet or a pink neon light without thinking of the Come Inn, a place I once called home.