South Korea's 'love hotels' are turning respectable. Some of the cheap and seedy establishments traditionally used for illicit trysts have shaken up their image to attract a different class of clientele. In an overcrowded city with high property prices, where the young often live with their parents until they get married, these hotels have provided a sanctuary for couples in search of some much-needed privacy. But now, happily married couples and students wanting a quiet place to study are increasingly checking in. Park Hee-ja, in her 50s and who lives with her mother-in-law, was finally persuaded by her husband of more than 30 years to try out such a hotel last year. She has never looked back. 'Although we have a nice apartment, we also have three children living with us, and sometimes it's refreshing to get away,' she said. In the city, love hotels are often simple, red-brick buildings; but out of town, extraordinary buildings - with names like Rose or Love-In - can be found, some of which resemble castles or palaces. The rooms come equipped with circular beds, large mirrors and curiously-shaped chairs - not necessarily designed for sitting on. Services include free condoms and the rental of porn movies. More upmarket ones now offer wide-screen televisions, jacuzzis and DVD players, which attract young students who use the rooms to study or simply to hang out with friends. This is just the latest evolutionary stage in the development of the love hotel. Before the 2002 soccer World Cup, co-hosted by South Korea, the government turned hundreds of the hotels into 'world inns' in a bid to plug a shortfall in the amount of accommodation available in Seoul and other cities hosting matches. The owners were told to clean up their image, received advice and money to carry out refurbishments, and were given instructions on welcoming foreign guests. The hotels have their own loyal following; aficionados exchange opinions on the quality of different venues on internet chat rooms and make recommendations to other users. But in their time, love hotels have also provoked their fair share of disapproval and resentment among residents who have complained about the effects on their children. Under the law, adult entertainment zones are meant to be located at least 200 metres from schools, but this regulation is often flouted. Clearly they have yet to completely shake off their less-than-salubrious image; at one hotel, for instance, the owner was spotted covering up the licence plate of one car. Presumably, his clients were not going to be watching much TV.