SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (Circa)--Despite its name, you can't actually buy caffeinated beverages or any seafood at "Love Fishing Cafe." Rather, it's a place where customers can fish indoors anytime of the year.
Located in Hongdae--a trendy neighborhood known for its urban arts and indie culture in Seoul, South Korea--Love Fishing Cafe opened its doors in June 2016 as part of a growing trend in the Asian country: to provide young people with unique forms of entertainment.
"This fishing cafe is not intended for customers to eat or bring fish back home. Rather, it is more for entertainment. Customers catch and weigh their fish in order to exchange them for prizes according to weight. Customers can exchange them for prizes in the short term or can collect catches to exchange them for bigger prizes in the long term."
When you first enter the cafe, it feels more like an arcade than anything. Prizes line one of the walls, while cartoonish, gaming sounds echo throughout the room. The occasional squeal from a woman handling a floppy fish is equally impossible to ignore.
For the equivalent of about $8, customers can rent poles to catch some of the nearly 2,000 fish swimming in the tank. The concept is pretty simple, though rules may change based on what game is prearranged by the cafe. For what's called the "range" game, customers get one hour to catch as many fish as they can. If customers are lucky enough to hook a carp, sturgeon, or snake-head fish, they drop it on a scale to determine how many points they get for the catch. At the end of an hour, they're able to select a prize based on a point range.
And, don't worry if the extent of your fishing knowledge doesn't extend beyond the classic card game "Go Fish." That's where staffers come in to help--assisting with everything from unhooking stubborn needles to attaching bait to the poles.
"Since we deal with living things, it requires a lot of cafe and safety since it involves needles," Moon told Circa in Korean.
Though Moon emphasized that part of the fishing experience at the cafe is the "feeling in hands," some customers tend to be more squeamish than others while handling an ungainly fish.
For the most part, Moon, who's worked at Love Fishing Cafe for a 1.5 years, said the cafe tends to be popular among Korean couples, families and senior citizens, but he hopes that the cafe will change the perception of fishing among younger generations.
"Fishing is generally recognized as an activity for elders," he continued. "We hope the fishing cafe can provide experience to young people and introduce them to fishing."
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