The fact that most yishipdae weren’t afforded the opportunity to socialize with the opposite sex until they reach college creates a feeding frenzy of sorts within the nightlife scene in Seoul. From a startlingly early age, these young men and women have been disciplined to study, study, study. Failure is simply not an option in South Korean life. In fact, some students spend 6 months or longer with no outside contact, just to prepare for the college entrance exams. To them, getting into the right school is their ticket into the social hierarchy of South Korea and is at the same time a predictor of the success and achievement they will experience for the rest of their lives. With all this “stressure” as some folks call it, it seems there wouldn’t be much time to play for the yishipdae.
While cutting loose isn’t socially acceptable in public in South Korea, there are plenty of places where young people can express themselves behind closed doors. There are all different kinds of “bangs,” or rooms where people can enjoy anything from a few bottles of Soju, the national drink (similar to the Japanese drink, Sake) to a night of karaoke or even pop into one of the taboo “love rooms” where people can use their credit card to check into an hourly hotel-style room and escape the prying eyes of their parents or the outside world in general. If you’re feeling frisky, Sinchon-dong is a neighborhood built around the major universities of Hongik, Ewha Women’s and Yonsei. Hongik is like the Harvard of South Korea. If you graduate with a degree from here, you’re set for life. With the highest density of clothing and accessory stores in Seoul, as well as a bustling night life scene, Sinchon-dong is the hot spot for the yishipdae of modern day Seoul.
The yishipdae are strikingly similar to the 20-somethings of America. They are fiercely independent, have a fascination with pop culture that is unrivaled (just look up K-pop in google), and absolutely love to make eating and drinking their biggest social endeavor. After a night out at any one of the beer halls, bars or nightclubs in Sinchon-dong, the yishipdae flood the streets and hit up late night “pochangmachas,” street vendors famous for their use (some say overuse) of charcoal in homemade half-barrel grills. At night, the air in Seoul is filled with the tantalizing scent of street meat and sweet potatoes, as well as the sounds of a new youth culture, less concerned with the conservative traditions of their parents generation and more concerned with forging their own identity and lifestyle, however similar it may be to our own here in America.