Over the past year, South Korea has seen a growing trend among younger generations for visiting photobooths.
While walking through the streets of Seoul, visitors can find photobooths sprinkled throughout the city. With at least one photobooth stop located on every corner of the city’s popular towns, the stores welcome a consistent number of customers – usually young adults or students.
Whether you’re visiting alone or as a group, these booths allow customers to take photos wearing a variety of accessories, pose as their favorite animation character, dress up in a costume or simply model as they are.
The final results are cute analog photo strips you can use to commemorate your time in the city with friends.
Out of the many photo booths available, the most popular is the photo machine franchise, Life4Cuts.
Life4Cuts began as a small booth in Daegu in 2017, according to JoongAng Daily. By October 2022, the booth became a nationwide phenomenon, reaching nearly 400 stores throughout the country. The brand’s popularity then continued to expand, launching overseas in Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, the United States and Canada.
For the cost of 4,000 won (approximately $3) for each photo strip, these popular locations seem to be the perfect hanging-out stop for students and young adults.
Kim Seo-yeon, a 20-year-old university student, told NextShark that visiting a Life4Cuts studio has become her favorite pastime when she is out with friends.
Sharing a collection of over 100 photo strips, Kim revealed that she and her friends often stop by the booths after a study session or dinner.
“I really like seeing my friends and I come together for a photo! We never know what will happen to us in the future, so we want to capture us as we are in the moment,” she shared.
The booths are also an opportunity for the young students to let off steam and try out various photo themes.
“Each booth has different accessories available, so we get to have fun, act silly and just take photos for cheap. It’s stress-relieving. Plus, there are booths with distinct themes and we want to try them all,” Kim explained.
With over 1.1 million posts on Instagram under the hashtag Life4Cuts in Korean, the sharing of photo strips online has become a popular trend in South Korea.
“I became interested in Life4Cuts after seeing it on Instagram,” 21-year-old university student Lee Chae-young told NextShark. “I saw a couple of K-pop stars I like doing cute poses, so I wanted to see what all the excitement was about.”
After visiting a booth with her friends, Lee finally understood why the photos had gone viral on social media.
“It was so exciting! My friend and I squeezed into a booth and we were all laughing, trying to get the perfect photo. Regardless, the lighting and camera were so nice there was no way the photos could turn out bad,” she revealed.
Lee also shared her personal insight into why she now enjoys going to the photobooths nearly every month.
I feel like our entire lives are online, especially after the pandemic. I felt really alone, but looking at the photo strips remind me that I have people around me. It’s also nice having a physical reminder of the people you love.
The return of photobooths is part of the ongoing global resurgence of the Y2K trend.
In South Korea, a similar trend of instant photography was seen in the early 2000s, with many decorating their photos with colorful backgrounds, lettering and stickers. The past trend, called “purikura” (print club), originated in Japan.
However, the trend faded away in South Korea due to its iconic photoshop that enlarged the subject’s eyes and sharpened their chins. While the recent photobooth popularity is a recreation of this Y2K fad, the recent trend takes on a more natural look for participants and incorporates modern technology.
After taking the photos, the photo strips are not only available for physical print but can also be downloaded into phones via a QR code.