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노래방 – The phenomenon that is Korean karaoke


Goodness gracious this is popular.

If your first encounter with Korean culture wasn’t with K-Pop or K-Dramas, then it might have been at the Korean karaoke bar. It’s also been blogged about here, here, here, here, here, and here. Oh, and here too. And kind of here.

The thing about this Korean-wide phenomenon is that it permeates and flows through each and every Korean like the force. Sure, not everyone goes all the time but if you’re Korean, you’ve gone to the 노래방. Plenty of times.


And here‘s a brief comparison of 노래방 outside of Korea.

Something that I see that makes me smile are these practice rooms: 노래연습장. It’s not quite enough to embarrass yourself with your friends – now you can practice your craft so that you’ll only slightly embarrass yourself. Only slightly.
Practice Room

Here’s the thing: these little rooms are magical. Like a mini-Vegas. What happens in 노래방 stays in 노래방. If you sing Wonder Girls with your drinking buddies, they won’t hold it against you. If you stand up and bang on the tambourine to your friend’s thirty-year-old trot tune, it’s totally fine. If you pour your heart into the mic for your favorite over-the-top cheesy ballad, you’re in good company.


If you go to 노래방 and just sit there, be prepared to get razzed and bullied until you sing something. You are expected to sing. Seriously, I understand that this activity has no real American equivalent but if you are a stick-in-the-mud then you’re better off staying at home.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love 노래방 and I’m a lousy singer – but if this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, it can be stressful to be pressured into singing in front of people. I encourage everyone seriously studying Korean to go to a 노래방 at least once. It really has a whole lot less to do with sounding great than it does hanging out and relaxing.

One of the benefits for going to a 노래방 with friends is that it is one of many activities that help to build relationships. As if you didn’t know already, the human race Koreans place a lot of importance on relationships and their word about you is vital to becoming successful in Korea. Want friends? be a friend. Koreans dig on singing loudly in small spaces.

So, any horror stories? Any special nights that started/ended with singing? Do tell.