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'Love Motels' An Asia Summit Perk

Round beds and red lights are among the amenities on offer to guests attending a regional summit in this port city.

While world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit will stay in five-star hotels, hundreds of others are booked into "love motels," the colloquial term for lodgings more suited for the kind of "love" that lasts for hours rather than for eternity.

The affordable motels are a fixture across South Korea. In one of the world's most densely populated countries, where extended families often live together, such accommodations provide a refuge for those seeking discreet locations for intimate encounters.

Luxury hotels in Busan's Haeundae beach area near the summit venues are at a premium, housing an estimated 10,000 guests connected to APEC's weeklong meetings, culminating in the leaders' summit Friday and Saturday.

"A lot of visitors have requested rooms at super-deluxe hotels, but due to the limited number of hotels available, not everyone was able to stay at the hotels they desired," said Koo Yu-na, an official with the APEC accommodation team.

The room shortage sent organizers to the "love motels," which often have fanciful English names like Crystal or Luxury. Nearly half of these motels are fully booked during the summit, Koo said.

"Love motels" are decked out with features designed for covert liaisons of amorous sort. Curtains of rope at parking lot entrances allow cars inside but keep out prying eyes. Frosted glass and heavy curtains in the rooms provide further cover.

The features are necessity for some visitors: Adultery is illegal in South Korea and punishable by up to two years in prison, although the law is only really enforced by angry spouses.

Other amenities can include the red lights and round beds. At the Motel Aqua Beach where some journalists are staying, staircase railings are decorated with fanciful drawings of bare-breasted maidens.

Not included are closets. Instead, guests get a couple of hangers, enough to hold what you came in wearing.

APEC organizers acknowledge some guests aren't pleased.

"We have had visitors complaining about outdated facilities at some of the inexpensive hotels," Koo said.

South Korea has turned to the "love motels" before during big events, with many visitors staying in them during the 2002 World Cup the country co-hosted with Japan and during the Asian Games later that year.

And despite the influx of APEC guests to Busan, the motels aren't necessarily happy. Intense security means many local clients are staying away. Rooms that can be rented by the hour, possibly several times over the course of a day and night, are now occupied 24 hours by single guests.

At the Queen, which boasts neon lights and rope curtains but where managers insist this isn't a "love motel," business has turned for the worse during APEC. Normally, all 42 rooms are full but only six were occupied early this week.

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