In the basements of South Korea’s most popular districts lies Red Container, one of the many thriving adult shop brands in the country.
With its traditional Confucian foundation, South Korea — like much of East Asia — is known to be a conservative country under a patriarchal structure. Korean history depicts a “woman’s self worth and honor” in accordance with “her chastity and adherence to men,” as Katrina Maynes of Grand Valley State University states in her 2012 article “Korean Perceptions of Chastity, Gender Roles, and Libido.” In accordance with these beliefs and values, South Korea continues to consider sex as taboo.
The country’s sexually conservative culture, however, hasn’t stopped the extensive number of adult shops within its cities from becoming profitable businesses. Often located in the basements of larger buildings, the logos for these shops are hidden behind larger signs and corners, dedicated to those who are already aware that they exist. Out of these many stores, I had the opportunity to explore Gangnam’s Red Container, a notorious name known to those wanting to explore their sexuality.
Upon descending a flight of stairs, I was greeted politely by an all-female staff who turned to me with a formal bow. I was then asked to cleanse my hands with sanitizer while they checked my temperature, in adherence to the strict COVID-19 preventative measures most of the other establishments in the country currently follow.
Once I walked through the doors of the main entrance, I was greeted by one of the cleanest rooms — to the point where it seemed almost clinical — I have ever seen. Against pristine white walls, adult toys lined the shelves and were accompanied by small images depicting how each item should be used. Organized by interest, the available products ranged from sexy cosplay outfits and light bondage ropes to toys modeled after 16-inch genitals and phallic vegetables. As couples mostly in their mid- to early 20s walked around the large space, their hands caressing the other’s hips, the store’s employees remained attentive and fully prepared to further explain the nature of each object and its many pleasurable objectives.
After I made the decision to purchase a small toy, a staff member guided me to a counter for an “open test” using gloved hands. The goal of this test is to ensure that one’s desired product is working with the utmost quality while one of the staff members explains the different items included with the product — these packages can come with additional foreplay cards, silk blindfolds and aromatic gel, to name a few. The staff member also explains how to take proper care of one’s purchase in addition to the many ways it can be used, both alone and with a partner.
Additional samples were provided when my item was repackaged. I received condoms and lube, with a quick reminder on safe sex and the different contraceptive methods available. I left the store feeling a buzz of excitement, my purchase hidden within the layers of wrapping tissue and a cute miniature bag that lacked a logo.
In a country where sex and masturbation are considered largely taboo and shameful, my experience at Red Container came as a shock. It far exceeded the expectations set by stores in the United States, which I’ve found to lure the public with bright neon signs only to provide a dimly lit experience within a far too crowded space serviced by a lone worker behind the counter.
Red Container’s knowledgeable employees facilitated an open conversation without a hint of judgment, encouraging me and other buyers to discover the best toys for us. They seemed to be more inclusive of non-heterosexual relationships, opting to use “partner” to describe every customer’s love interest. Despite the image South Korea has garnered in terms of conservatism, Red Container acts as both a location and an act of defiance, challenging its visitors to enter a world of love and pleasure.
Featured Image via NextShark