Wherever you may go in South Korea, you’re bound to stumble across a computer cafe, or PC Bang, as there are around 12,000 of them. It’s a simple idea: pay by the hour for a chair with a PC and you can check your email, watch movies, or – the most common useage – play online games to your heart’s content. There’s about 50 to 200 chairs in one giant room. One hour’s seat rent can cost from 500 to 1,500 won, but 1,000 won is about average. You can eat and drink while using the PC, and in fact you’re encouraged to as there are food and drink machines and menus.

While the concept of a computer cafe was definitely around in Korea before the 1990s, it was around then that PC Bangs really began to take off, due to major investment in high speed internet services. A PC Bang is a relatively simple business to run, too – just set up all the computers with some of the most popular games, like StarCraft and League of Legends, and you’re off.

With Korea’s super speedy broadband in almost every home, you may wonder why some people still choose to pay for PC time. First of all, some multiplayer games reward players for logging in at a PC Bang, for example, you can access all the champions in League of Legends automatically.

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Secondly, for younger guys – and they are the main staple of PC Bangs clientele – it’s a social spot to hang out with friends and play games together, without anyone asking you to keep the noise down. For other people, it’s a way to escape the stress of family or work life for a few hours.

While laws banning smoking at PC Bangs may have affected some of the regular customers’ game time, they’ve also apparently spurred some PC Bang owners into changing decor to appeal to more female gamers. Though how ‘framed pictures of fruit and soothing waterfalls‘ was decided upon as this strategy is anyone’s guess. Regardless of gender, Korea’s huge online-game-loving population has made the PC Bang a modern staple.

Take a look inside a PC Bang here

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British writer and editor living in Japan. Currently studying Japanese, Korean, K-pop dance, and the fine form of 이성종's legs.