It has to be said, DVD-bangs (DVD방) – or DVD-rooms in English – have a certain reputation. Famously frequented by Korean adolescents hoping to get lucky or watch a dirty movie away from prying parental eyes, they’re seen as a somewhat seedy past-time by older generations. But for film lovers they’re so much more than a horny teenage hideout.
Born out of the lack of private space in Korea’s traditionally compact houses and apartments, DVD-bangs provide a different and interesting way to experience the medium of film, as well as a sanctuary for frustrated couples. So when my Korean friend suggested we go one evening I pushed my co-teacher’s look of mild horror to the back of my mind and accepted the invite.
DVD-bangs are conveniently located everywhere so we didn’t have to walk far from my apartment to find one. Outside it looks like any other building in Korea- drab with the ubiquitous gaudy signage that announce every business. Feeling like we should be wearing trench coats and fedoras, we perform a quick scout around to make sure none of my students are lurking nearby before ducking inside.
This particular DVD-bang shares a building with a number of other businesses so we hop in the lift and ride it to the top floor. When the doors slide open we’re
assaulted greeted by a wall of cheery pink wallpaper. At the end of this candy-coloured corridor is a miniaturized cinema lobby, complete with a snack bar and ushers. The entire back wall is lined with a very impressive selection of dvds – both Korean and western – that have been categorised by an individual with far too much free time on their hands.
After browsing we eventually plump for a popular Korean hiest movie called The Thieves (think Oceans 11 if George Clooney was a Korean man with a fake moustache) and after loading up on drinks and snacks and paying our 10,000 won (just over £5) we follow the usher through a doorway into a dimly-lit corridor. The corridor is thickly carpeted so our steps are muffled and as we make our way I throw a few covert glances left and right, trying to get a glimpse into the numerous rooms leading off the corridor.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, my sight is barred by the frosted glass on the doors. All I can see is flickering lights and soft voices in between the action on the screens. We arrive at our designated bang and the usher shows us inside. The space is suitably intimate. I’m horrible at guessing at the measurement of things so here’s a couple of generic DVD-bangs to give you an idea (I did try to take some snaps of my own but it didn’t feel like the right time to play the tourist somehow).
Our particular bang is fitted out with a very large, round mock-velvet sofa and rose-petal-patterned wallpaper, which somehow isn’t as tacky as that description suggests. There are a pile of blankets in the corner – definitely for winter dvd-banging sessions – and a blessed aircon blowing a steady stream of cool air down over us.
On the wall opposite the seating is an almighty projection screen – its as wide as the room – which, along with the surround-sound, mini snack bar and room service makes you feel as if you’re in some kind of private cinema-come-luxury-suite.
We settle in and the movie starts automatically. There’s no option to pause, rewind or fast-forward so rather than being like watching a dvd at home you get a real cinematic experience. The privacy also allows you to audibly react to what you’re watching without fear of recrimination from other audience members.
Its the perfect setting for our particular movie choice, but I think the intimate space would equally lend itself to an intense arthouse film or any other genre. A couple of hours later its over and the usher arrives to turf us out. Honestly, I could have quite happily stayed and had a movie marathon.
As long as you can push the thoughts of lusty adolescents and disapproving co-teachers to the back of your mind then I highly recommend paying a visit.