A new way of finding romantic matches using tablet PCs installed at a bar in Seoul is catching on as young people find that technology enables them to overcome their reluctance to approach strangers.
The bar, in Seoul's thriving Sinchon area, was crowded at 11 p.m. on Aug. 8 as customers, many of them university students, sat quietly hunched over the hi-tech tabs rating each other's on-screen images mentally and whispering to their friends.
The bar lends the digital hardware to each party of customers, who can communicate with people they take a shine to at other tables due to a special program that intra-links the tabs. They first talk on an instant messaging service, then move on to video chatting and finally, if all goes well, elect to share a table.
Customer feedback so far has been positive. A 22-year-old female college student who visits the bar two or three times a week said, "At ordinary bars, I'm reluctant to meet someone, because I can only judge them based on their looks, but this bar is great because we can talk before we meet."
"This way of meeting people eases the social embarrassment of having to turn someone down," added the young lady, who has the surname Kim.
Meanwhile, the owner of the bar said business was booming as word-of-mouth spreads.
"We usually get about 20 tables shared by customers on weekends," said the owner, a 50-year-old man surnamed Kim. "People are lining up in front of the bar to get in."
But not all of the customers leave satisfied, and fewer find their knight in shining armor or dream girl.
One man who visited the bar for the first time said that many people often cut off their interlocutor mid-stream because the Internet allows them to short-circuit entrenched rules of social etiquette.
"I feel very uncomfortable, actually, as it seems as though the kind of bad manners you encounter on the Internet have found a good home here," said the man, a 33-year-old office worker who only provided his surname, Jung.