Gyeongju Love Castle (NSFW)

Having heard a lot about Love Land sex park on Jeju Island, I was pleased to discover there are a few of these in South Korea. So I took the opportunity to visit one in Gyeongju in the southwest.

I was doubly intrigued about the park because Korean attitudes towards sexuality can seem schizophrenic. Pornography is forbidden, and there’s a more-than-residual Confucian puritanism that hides public discussion of sexuality. In the west, being a virgin in your teens is a sign of social maladjustment; in Korea it’s the opposite. Plus, since most Koreans live with their parents until marriage, many young people have no space to have sex or just hang out. Frank discussion of sexual problems and attitudes that have existed in western media since the 1960s are only a couple of years old here. Yet love motels, where couples with no private space of their own can rent a room for an hour or a night, abound in every neighbourhood, and cheaper room cafes provide the same service for teenagers. Massage parlours are every half-block and bikini bars, where men are served drinks by young women, are visible near some universities.

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This ‘doesn’t exist/exists everywhere’ dichotomy reaches its climax in the Love Castle, because it appears that, once you accept the warnings and enter a sex-positive space, then all coyness disappears. However, the stultifying repression that shapes Korean patriarchy does not, and you end up with a heterogeneous – emphasis on the hetero – mishmash of statues, paintings and interactive displays alternately inspired by art students or someone’s creepy uncle. From the official tourist write-up:

For those much more adult, there is also the Gyeongju “Love Castle” near Blue One Water Park. Not for the faint of heart or anyone under the age of 19, this offers a taste of the infamous “Jeju Love Land” right in Gyeongsangbuk-do with its plethora of erotic statuary and art.

Being more adult, over 19 and stout of heart, I gave it a shot. It was a cold night, so please excuse the shaky camera work – my fingers kept freezing. The Love Castle is on a main road, opposite a number of fancy restaurants. The front gate opens up into a statue park:

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Clearly, a lot of thought had been put into this place. The displays are well-made, well-lit and the path wends inside and outside up a hill. Having captured my attention with the statues, the first room began with displays of historical sexual iconography:
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I have no idea about its origin or veracity. A few times I thought someone had either recreated historical artwork or just imagined it:
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Were there really wooden dildos? Maybe. The paintings, at least, seemed authentic:

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From there I moved to cartoon figurines of – fantasies? Slice of life reporting? Social criticism?
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Back outside to more statues – some were cute, and some seemed almost like art:
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But then there were also asses:
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And a series of ‘caught looking’ tableaus that gave me an otaku vibe:
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This one’s caption reads “After you next”. Who will the dog choose?

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I could see this working in an 80s porn flick.

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I’m seeing Indian, Greek, Korean…

Back inside (thank god, I was freezing), to a room of assorted small statues. This was my favourite of the Castle, due to the androgyny and because it’s probably not authorized by Disney:
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I guess Koreans are capable of bucktooth Asian stereotypes too.

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These look like the gift that the Cuban priest gives Father Ted – maybe that’s the original source?

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Nearby, there was also a large glass box in which, after you pressed a button, a wooden man ejaculated water on the glass with the pressure of a firehose.

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She looks like she’s enjoying herself.

Back outside, there was a genuinely funny giant statue that sprayed flumes of water meters into the air – so much so that nearby trees were coated in ice:
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And then I exited through the gift shop. It had a range of sex toys, condoms, lube – the kind of thing that’s quite hard to find in Korea, at least in shops. No pictures were allowed, as the polite young woman behind the counter made clear.

The displays veered from kitsch to porn to art, with genuine touches of humour and a lot of material that owed more to Benny Hill than Tom of Finland. Queerness is just beginning to be talked about openly in Korea, and that hadn’t trickled down to the Love Castle. The Love Castle is marketed to straight couples – at least, that’s who I saw there (and not many, on a cold weeknight). To the extent that the displays were 100% male gaze-y, it’s sexist. But if you can turn off your critical thinking skills, it’s worth a visit.

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