Korean Room Salon girl's salaries investigated.
By Nathan Schwartzman
The Hankook Ilbo’s weekly magazine investigated the salaries and spending habits of Seoul’s vaunted room salon girls.
The number of people earning over 100 million a year is increasing. This is happening not just among executives in large companies but also among professionals and entertainers. To ordinary folk that much money seems like a dream. There is always interest in their fortunes and lavish spending. The media are always full of stories about the astronomical salaries of this or that performer, businessman, or broker, helping give rise to all that interest. The careers of one of this class are often gossiped about but their 100-million won salaries are widely known while their actual salaries are veiled and out of sight. We’re talking about those who work in the adult entertainment industry. The so-called “singing girls” — room salon girls — who work in this industry have never seen their salaries revealed even once. Their consumption of sports cars and brand-name goods surpasses anyone. What do they do and how much do they consume? Let’s take a peek into their books.
Women in the adult entertainment industry used to be considered shameful and limited by their youth. But now things are different. Regular women seek out the work themselves because they can enjoy an income and life that outstrips those of ordinary drudges. Even so, not just anyone can be the flower of the industry. These days being pretty and good-looking is not enough. Well, not really, but so-called “ace” women do make a lot more than others. In that world women judged to be aces become more famous and wealthy than average office workers can even imagine. So more and more women are knocking on the industry’s door. Some of them wanted to go into show business but didn’t like having their faces so recognizable and being in the spotlight, preferring to make money more freely and have a nicer life.
It is usually said that the adult entertainment industry is full of moneylenders. It’s not because of indebted customers. It’s because there are so many women who work there who need to take care of their credit card and loan debts to pay for luxury goods, food and drink and entertaining bills. Women enter the industry not only because they can easily make a lot of money but also in order to take care of debts. “While they work here they handle a lot of money and they spend a lot, too, and regular people look down on them. So in the end they quit, saying ‘all I learned is robbery’, and walk out, but also a lot of them come back or were just always stuck to these places.” Those are the words of our source at one such business. That may sound like an exaggeration but if you listen to what the people in the industry have to say, that is undeniably the true situation. The reason that women choose to work there is simple. They believe it to be the one place they can make a lot of money in a short time.
By breaking down their income you can immediately understand why they think so. In the case of high-quality, though not top 10%, room salons, suppose that one woman works there for three months meeting customers. She will make about 200,000 won per day. That’s the minimum she can expect on average not counting expenses like makeup, hair, clothing, and skin massages or letting customers keep a tab. If she works four days a week she will make 3.2 million won that month. The midpoint for higher salaries is seven to eight million won. Of course that figure doesn’t include the bills for the open secret of the so-called “second round”, and women at top 10% room salons are thought to make up to 20 million won per month.
A source at room salon G in Gangnam said, “if the girls who work here were being paid 3.2 million none of them would stay. Girls at good Gangnam room salons make at least 10 million a month. “Of course there are those who can’t make more than that. They have more off days than working days. So their salary goes down to 8 million won.”
Before going to work, girls at high-class room salons in Gangnam drop by the beauty salon. They may spend from 60,000 to 80,000 won each day on their hair and makeup. Most of them will sign a contract with the salon for two million won each month and receive some free services. That is as much as office workers make in a month, but they think of it as an investment. Their living costs are not small. The greatest number of them live in Gangnam. They live in old one-room apartments in Yeoksam, Nonhyeon, Cheongdam, and Samseong-dong. Many of them live with a friend or two in a one-room or an officetel, with a monthly rent of from one million to 3.5 million won, not including security deposit. Also, because they don’t cook their own food they order delivery or go out to eat, and those costs total one million to 1.5 million won each month. Transportation costs are also not inconsiderable. They tend to use call taxis rather than driving themselves. It can cost 20,000 to 30,000 won per day for those taxis, or 700,000 to 800,000 won a month. Their biggest expenses are clothing and handbags. They can spend two million a won a month on such brand-name goods and some spend tens of millions.
There are also their expenses for entertainment and leisure time. Spending time in host bars and other expensive drinking establishments stacks up their costs without limit. Bills for plastic surgery, leisure, makeup, and sundry others totaled up can easily cross 3 million won a month. When everything is put together the figure reaches an average of 8 to 9 million won per month and can reach 10 million. People in the pleasure quarters sometimes say this. “The result of spending ten years in this life is having plenty of bags, underwear, silicone, and sighs.”
One room salon fan noted sardonically, “regular, thrifty women with office jobs make two million a month and five years later they live in 18-pyeong apartments near Seoul. But the women who work in room salons make several times that much money and yet years later they still live in the same little one-room apartment. If you look at how much they spend you can clearly understand.”
Hybrid News Limited/asiancorrespondent.com