From sheep cafes to hanbok cafes, Korea has it all in terms of themed cafes. However, among them all, room escape cafes have recently caused a stir among the Korean public and has been heralded as the new “hot attraction” according to Korea Times. It may be surprising to some that room escape cafes are still a relatively new business: the first location opened only in May 2015. Modeled after a Korean reality show, “The Code: Secret Room” aired since Jan. 2016, the show initially immersed many viewers into the idea of escaping games. Subsequently, room escape cafes started to become prevalent mainly in Seoul.
In Korea, the rise of escape rooms is seen as inevitable according to Joongang Daily. Young adults in Korea still face limitations to their entertainment options, as not many choices exist, and the ones that do have already gone out of trend. To attest to its growing popularity, there was only one escape room business in Korea in May 2015, but the figure soon grew to over 70 as of Dec. 2016.
“I find that there’s not much to do in Korea in terms of having fun, especially at our age, where we face a lot of restrictions,” said Eugene Sung (11), visitor of an escape room. “Mostly, we can only go shopping or to restaurants, which can get boring after some time. Entertainment cafes such as the escape rooms satiate the desire for more of those sort of fun places where teenagers and young adults can turn to.”
For those unfamiliar with the concept behind the escape rooms, it boils down to this: a person is locked in a room and tries to use the given clues in order to escape. Although it may depend on the location, the time limit is an hour, in which case the employees will simply let the person out. Specifically, prices for these escape rooms start from around 20,000 won per person, but depends on the number of people in the group. However, the exact proceedings inside the room are undisclosed, as all phones and camera devices are strictly forbidden. Therefore, the mystery surrounding the escape routes continues to be its selling point.
“I can definitely see the charm behind the escape rooms,” said Kyuhee Han (9), visitor of the Hongdae branch. “They provide a lot of unique themes to try from, so that you don’t get bored after trying it once and will come back. Personally, another charming point was that the missions were not ridiculously hard, so the average person will enjoy it and not be frustrated.”
Another charming point of these escape rooms is the multiple themes that ensure that these cafes are not simply short trends. The themes are of differing difficulty, with some examples including “Sherlock Holmes”, “Cannibal Restaurant”, and “Abandoned Schoolhouse”. Naturally, the Alcatraz prison theme, rumored to be one of the hardest, is the most popular among visitors who want a real challenge. Overall, these cafes offer an enjoyable activity for children and adults alike at a reasonable price and low time commitment.