How to Have a Blast at Noraebang (노래방) the Korean Way

Lingua Asia_Complete Guide to Noraebang (노래방)

After you’ve hit the bars and clubs, there’s only one thing to make the night complete. Noraebang of course!

Here’s everything you need to know about it!

Quick Summary

  • Noraebang means a private singing room, similar to Japanese Karaoke.
  • Su Noraebang in Hongdae is famous for its luxury decoration.
  • Coin Noraebang is a tiny room that charges per song or 30 minutes/1 hour.

What is Noraebang (노래방) in Korean?

Lingua Asia_Coin Noraebang Photo

Noraebang (노래방) is a compound word of Norae (singing or song) and Bang (room). It’s similar to Japanese Karaoke, but I’ll never admit it! Just kidding, they invented it of course, but Koreans perfected it.

Noraebang has many private insulated rooms, so you can enjoy singing, even when you’re not ready to be a star. (People can still hear you, but at least you don’t have to sing in front of them. Yay for introverts!)

Koreans go to Noraebang with friends, dates, family or even coworkers as a part of socializing.

I used to go to Noraebang during gonggang (공강), free time in between classes at university, with my friends. I felt uncomfortable singing in front of my boss and coworkers while working for a Korean company. (It feels like a talent show. Some get stressed when they’re not good at singing, but are pressured to do so.) Now, I love going to Coin Noraebang by myself to de-stress in my free time!

Many adult Koreans go to Noraebang as a second or third place (2차 or 3차) after drinking, kind of like in between bar hopping.

Noraebang is also great to blow off steam like you see in Aggretsuko on Netflix.

What are the types of Noraebang in Korea or Koreatown?

There are four types of Noraebang:

  • General Noraebang that is charged hourly, and not allowed to sell any alcoholic beverages
  • Coin Noraebang that is same as the general one, but smaller and charges per song or 30 mins/hour
  • Karaoke (가라오케 or gah-rah-o-keh) that sells alcohol, but no female attendant
  • Entertainment Bar (유흥주점 or yu-heung-joo-jeom) that sells alcohol and offers female attendants for uh, reasons

When Koreans say Noraebang, they mean a general one. Its official (legal) name is 노래연습장 (Norae Yeonseupjang), which means singing practice center.

These good clean fun places have a signboard that says “청소년 출입가능업소 (teenagers allowed)” or “22시 이후 청소년 출입금지 (teenagers prohibited after 10 pm).

Watch out if you spot a signboard or neon sign with a female figure singing/dancing, it’s probably a 유흥주점 for adults only. Or don’t. I won’t judge. *wiiink*

※I’m only going to talk about General or Coin Noraebang in this post!

Insider Tips! What is the most famous Noraebang franchise?

It’s “Su Noraebang (수노래방)”, and it’s pretty luxurious and photogenic. Some K-pop stars even perform for a surprise (guerrilla) event here. The most famous branch is the flagship store in Hongdae.

They’re pretty much noraebang mansions and are essential to any visit to Korea. They’re chock full of fun toys like tambourines, squeaky mallets and sometimes even horse masks (you haven’t been to Korea until you’ve worn a horse mask while singing Gangnam Style).

I always bring visitors to one, because they’re so fun and unique.

Why do Koreans go to Noraebang so much?

Koreans are 흥의 민족 (people of “heung”) who have excitement in their blood.

I never thought about ‘why’ until I wrote this post. I just grew up going to Noraebang, singing and dancing.

Life in Korea could be hectic as I had to study and work (perhaps) too much that the easiest way to unwind in an hour was Noraebang. Koreans like to get things done quickly, even relaxation! Time is money after all.

Insider Tips!

As you may have guessed, most Koreans are really good at singing. Sometimes I wonder how there are so many good singers on this tiny peninsula. Probably because they grow up doing it.

It also means, a tone-deaf (or 음치 eum-chi) person will have a hard time here. Don’t worry though, since there’s a hagwon (학원) for any subject, there are ones for singing!

If you can’t sing well, sing funny. Pick a comedic song and rock the heck out of it! They’ll love you for it.

How does Noraebang work in South Korea?

Lingua Asia_How does Noraebang work in South Korea
Left: Make sure to cover the mic with a cap! | Right: Versatile remote control that has features that require a four-year degree to master
  1. When you enter a Noraebang, pay first at the counter.
    You can pay per hour (usually 1 hour first, then extend if you wish to sing more).
    For example, Su Noraebang in Hongdae is 22,000 won (about 20 dollars) for an hour on weekends, or 2,000 won (less than 2 dollars) per hour/person from 6 am to noon on weekdays.
    [Tips! Ask for a room with window facing the street for a better vibe, view and audience!]
  2. Enter the private room. Staff will either guide you to the room or tell you the room number.
  3. Cover two microphones with tiny caps for hygienic purposes.
  4. Search songs with the provided book or a remote control. Most young Koreans will use the remote control. Fun fact, there’s a “박수 (applause)” button on the remote that comes in handy when you’re tired.
  5. Either key in the song number or type song name, then hit “시작 (start)”.
  6. To save time, find more songs and hit “예약 (reservation)”.
  7. When the song starts, click “간주점프 (skip non-singing part)” to sing right away and save time. Time is money!
  8. If you want the machine to stop scoring your singing skills, hit “점수제거 (remove score)”. Koreans need a score for everything, but you don’t.
  9. It’s good etiquette to either only sing the first verse and 취소 (cancel) the rest, or “간주점프 (skip non-singing part)” if you go with friends. But it’s up to the group and the best way to create a good atmosphere is to fully enjoy your song.

When you go to Coin Noraebang (코인노래방 or 코노 as a shortened version), the only difference is that you have a choice to either pay for 30 minutes or 1 hour at the counter (in this case, staff will tell you which room to enter), or insert coins in the machine in an empty room.

Most CoNo only accept cash, but you can also wire/transfer (계좌이체) if you’re tech savvy.

What is Subeesu in Noraebang?

Noraebang sometimes gives you subeesu (서비스)!

It’s usually an extra 5 to 20 minutes.

There’s a higher chance of more subeesu in the afternoon on weekdays as they’re not so busy.

I remember one place that kept giving subeesu, and I ended up singing for 3 hours when I paid for 1. I lost my voice that day, but it was totally worth it!!

Is there a Korean singing Noraebang app?

Of course! There are many Korean singing apps:

Where can I find Noraebang in LA K-Town?

They’ll usually have one in every shopping center along with a bakery, BBQ restaurant and optometrist. In the old days of ten years ago, there were also video rentals where you could find K-dramas and Korean movies on VHS and DVD.

Complete list of Koreatowns in North America

How do Noraebang work in Koreatowns?

Since they’re often run by first or second-generation Koreans, they operate just like they do in Korea! Some even sell alcohol under the table and offer female attendants, but you didn’t hear that from me.

One major difference is that you won’t find the luxury noraebang variety outside of Korea. Most cities in America and Canada don’t get much foot traffic, so it doesn’t make much sense to have large glass windows showcasing noraebang patrons. Also, there’s not nearly as much demand to justify a multi-story noraebang palace overseas.

Whether you’re hanging out with your friends, on a date, climbing the ladder at company gatherings (회식) or simply enjoying singing by yourself, Noraebang is a deeply-rooted part of Korean culture.


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