The Claw

As one walks the streets of Korea, one begins to notice an odd thing: arcade games set up on the street. I don’t know if this is just a Cheongju thing, but I mean those coin operated punching bags, vending machines that drop their goods according to chance, and lots and lots of claw machines: they’re everywhere.

I’d always wondered about it, but it wasn’t until last night that I appreciated their presence.

My co-teacher, HM, and I went out for a movie and drinks, and during the ten minutes we had to kill before the movie, she let me in on an addiction she has: claw machines. So before we knew it, we were fishing change from every pocket and surrendering coins into the hungry slot.

Hungry for coins!! (I’ve waited my whole life to relevantly use this gif. Sorry if it means you never sleep again. I believe it’s Japanese.)

HM went first and I cheered her on, groaning when at the last second the stuffed animals slipped out of the claw, and egging her on to try again. After a few attempts, she said, “You go, you go.”

So I went, keeping my eye on an ambiguous dog-like creature eating something that resembled both watermelon and pizza.

I pushed the coin in, positioned the claw with mad precision and – it descended.

It gripped the stuffie like it had all the many times before – EXCEPT IT DIDN’T FALL!

HM and I were shrieking and shouting (to the chagrin of all in the movie waiting area and the nearby employees), but it was entirely worth it when I fished my prize from the shoot.


After that, my confidence was bolstered so much from a first-time win that I think I went for another five tries. As we further spent our luck on these extremely unlucky games, we suffered increasing levels of stress, the toys invariably dropping from the feeble grip of the metal fingers.

Eventually we realized we were late for the movie, so we motored over to the cinema where the ads were thankfully still playing. (Korean movie theaters also have assigned seating, thank the gods!)

Our stress levels didn’t lower, since the film was Non-Stop: terrible, but certainly a thriller. HM and I were freaking out for all the entire finale.

We left and needed a stiff drink, so we headed to some bars. Once we’d sufficiently watered ourselves and relaxed, HM let me in on another one of her favourite things: arcade games. I was fully down.

The arcade was small and full of people – I neglected to get a photo of it, but it was like a portion of a county fair installed in a permanent location. There was a shooting game, basketball (shoot as many hoops as you can in 60 seconds to win prizes), an air hockey table, and – of course – a claw machine.

At this point I started to realize a growing addiction to them too.

In a manic revolution of the room, we tried all the games. Sadly the claw machine was rigged (it opened its claws before hovering over the drop shoot, god damnit!!), but from all the points HM racked up at the basketball station, we managed to upgrade to a level two prize – which she let me pick and keep. I chose a bunny, because it’s the cutest thing in existence and soft as.

According to the tag, its name is Molang, which is Korean for “spongey”, because it’s squishy.


After that, we terrorized every single other claw machine we came across and must’ve dropped 10, 000W (~$10) on these games that averaged 1, 000W for 6 tries. Math: you do it. Judgement: please refrain.

Anyway we called it a night after a few more white russians on my part and a particularly kick-in-the-liver strong apple martini for HM. I have one thing to say though, and that’s that I don’t think I’ve laughed so much in a single night out in Cheongju.

Plus I got to wake up and see this, and that had my gut a-giggling all over again.


5 thoughts on “The Claw

  1. Sounds like a good ol’ day at the Fair…and BETTER! (You always did love those claw games 🙂 )
    You woke up to Molang also, didn’t you???? The bunny made it home?


  2. You’re keeping up your keen eye and hand coordination I see. I still have the sorcerer bear on my dresser you won for me at the fair lo those many years ago. And of course no to mention all the others that we ended up selling or giving away.


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