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[Weekender] Fishing cafes hook young Koreans

Fishing cafes offer people a chance to break out of their usual patterns.

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Published : 2017-07-14 16:40
Updated : 2017-07-14 16:40

With a growing number of Koreans in their 20s and 30s seeking alternative places to spend time together indoor fishing holes, known as “fishing cafes,” are gowing in popularity. 

A 22-year-old student surnamed Kim is one of those looking for a new way of passing time. Tired of the same old movies, restaurants and cafes, she chose a fishing cafe as a new place to entertain herself. 

Around 50 fishing cafes are located at university areas in Seoul, allowing the young to delve into a new source of entertainment, free from worries about weather or cost. 

A fishing cafe in Hongdae, Seoul (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

“I have never fished before. But I have caught 10 fish so far,” Kim, a 22-year-old student said. “Fishing is much easier than I thought.”

Kim is new to fishing, but the indoor fishing hole named “Love Fishing Cafe” in Hongdae, Seoul, offers her plenty of chances to hit it big with more than 1,500 carp in its pool.

“It would take a lot of money and time to go fishing outside. Fishing spots are far away and equipment is expensive,” Kim said. “But it is convenient and cheap to come here.”

It costs about 9,000 won ($8) to spend an hour at a fishing cafe in Seoul. But while it is much cheaper than fishing outdoors, the experience is different. 

Fishing cafes allow anyone to try their hand at fishing. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

“Fishing has been my hobby since the age of 10,” said 57-year-old beekeeper Choi Seok-kwan, who regularly visits fishing cafes. “Fishing in here is just as exciting as fishing outside, but in a different way.”

Choi said that fishing was a tricky hobby because of the unpredictable weather. Indoor fishing cafes, however, are weather-proof. Neither rain nor wind can stop keen anglers from hooking fish there.

The increasing popularity of indoor fishing came as Koreans prefer indoor activities such as screen-golf, pilates and karaoke. Indoor activities, in general, offer more freedom regarding weather and other restrictions.

“When you go sea fishing, sea sickness is something you cannot avoid. Plus, fishing rods get easily tangled since the boat is cramped,” Kim Se-hoon, a 20-year-old visitor, said.

It is not just about the fish. In Love Fishing Cafe, small gifts are given to customers, based on the weight of the hooked fish. 

Customers receive small gifts based on their performances. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

“The price of gifts ranges from 2,000 to 10,000 won,” Moon Lee-bok, the store manager said. “People usually earn gifts worth of 3,000 won or so -- such as mini-fans, cellphone chargers or even selfie-pods.”

After weighing, the fish caught by customers are released back into the pool. Customers often ask to take their catches home, but the store does not allow it.

In indoor fishing facilities, fishing is a sport for everyone, regardless of age or gender. Many young couples visit the fishing cafes, looking for a unique dating place in a bid to break out of their usual patterns.

Around 50 and 150 customers visit the store on weekdays and weekends, respectively. “Visitors even wait for turns outside on weekends,” the manager said. “Families and fishers (who fish for hobby) come, too.”

Since the fishing hole is located at the popular district of Hongdae, foreign tourists visit the store as well. “Every day, around five foreigners visit,” the manager said. “Tourists who look for a special memory in Korea give indoor fishing a shot.”

The fishing cafe was launched in the summer of 2015. Like any other entertainment industry, the store manager is worried that the customers might get bored of the sport.

“There are not many people who come back for a second visit, as it is usually a one-time experience,” the manager said. “Business is good at the moment, but I’m worried about the future.”

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)