Once upon a time . . .
adultery was illegal in South Korea. People could go to jail because of it.
Sites such as Ashley Madison – that promote married people having affairs – were banned in South Korea, despite their efforts to sue Korea, claiming that the Korean Government was protecting local hook-up sites (see Brendon Carr’s first comment on the linked page), until, one day, the law was changed.
Now, according to the claims of Christoph Kraemer, director of international relations for Ashley Madison, “. . . Membership is growing quickest in India, South Korea and Japan.” (cite)
When I read about this, I checked and, yes, the site is accessible now from Korea and does offer support in Korean, however, since there are quite a few complaints of this service being fraudulent. Several people I know thought that this site was a typical dating scam setup, where there are fake accounts setup just to drawn in the unsuspecting, so we thought it would be a good idea to test this and to ascertain if previous complaints had any merit and the following is what we found.
First, any adult can sign up for an account, which we did. We fought more over the online name than we did about anything else. We were torn between choices like “Nunchi lover”, “Peachy white guy” or “Tall and handsome carpet muncher” and so many other corny names but, just as soon as we created our account, we got four notices in our mail account from interested women, but wait, under the “viewed me” section of our account, it said “no one has recently viewed your profile”! Wow, these women must be psychic and married since they knew we had just joined Ashley Madison before anyone had even looked at our profile yet.
We went on to search the site for Seoul listings, for women that listed both Korean only or Korean and English as languages. We viewed several listings; many without photos. We pulled up one listing several times, arguing over whether or not a certain woman looked good or not. Lo and behold, some hours later, the same woman whose profile we had argued over had sent us mail but – we had spent no money to buy “credits” for the site’s service, thus we could not read the obviously juicy mail sent to us by the very women whose profile we poured over. We were also amazed because the site dashboard told us that no one had viewed our profile as of yet, thus this women must also be another psychic married woman, looking for action.
Well, it was obvious to us that the time had come to make a decision – do we wisely save our money or do we give in to our lustful, now legal desires?
After splitting the cost, we bought the cheapest option, which is still pretty expensive for one person. We also discovered a little tricky thing about this site. As listed in the conditions for this service (DO READ THE FINE PRINT) they have the option to automatically charge your card or Paypal account to purchase additional credits for you to keep your account active:
. . . (we use an) automatic re-bill “top up” feature to keep your account active. In the event that any action you take or features you use on the Service that require the expenditure of credits results in you having a “zero balance” or a negative balance of credits, WE WILL AUTOMATICALLY PURCHASE (WITHOUT FURTHER AUTHORIZATION FROM YOU ONCE YOU OPT IN) FOR YOU THE SAME MEMBERSHIP PACKAGE THAT YOU HAD PURCHASED PREVIOUSLY . . .
basically, they reserve the right to charge you again if you are careless and opt-in without understanding what you are agreeing to. This auto-charging is a similar practice to one used by certain illicit online streaming sites where they offer a free trial for their service but the fine print says that if you don’t cancel the trial before a certain time, they will charge you the full fee and their fine print also says there is a cost to cancel. Ashley Madison also charges for a “full deletion” of account information from their site as well, which again is in the fine print. (link) though you can hide your account from viewing. It is definitely not clear just what happens to a members photo if they should cancel their service either.
There is also this bit of fine print from the site:
Our profiles message with Guest users, but not with Members. Members interact only with profiles of actual persons. Guests are contacted by our profiles through computer generated messages, including emails and instant messages. These profiles are NOT conspicuously identified as such.
You understand, acknowledge and agree that any interaction or messaging with our profiles is independent of, and separate from, our general database of Members who may be seeking in person or other kinds of encounters or introductions. You understand that you cannot meet any of the images associated with our profiles in person and you acknowledge and agree that such communications are solely for your entertainment and to encourage your use of our Service. You acknowledge and agree that the user conduct provisions of these Terms apply to your interactions with these profiles. If you do not wish to continue to receive communications or other interaction from our profiles, to which the receipt of such messages you hereby agree to and consent, go to “Manage Profile” and click on “Profile Options”, in “Profile Options” select “Check this box if you do not wish to by contacted by Market Research.” Then click on “UPDATE”.
This means that the “psychic married women” we encountered were actually Ashley Madison bots that were inticing us and giving us the impression that their site is really active with women looking for sex.
Once having bought credits on the AM site, they charge five credits to send mail to any member (or bot) though any additional follow-up mail to a member is free, according to their site. Having loaded up on credits, our itching fingers grabbed the mail that had been out of our reach, only to read that the women wanted a photo and would reply if interested. She never did, in fact, after having purchase our credits, all mail from these psychic married women stopped completely.
Almost once every other day, we did get a “wink” from women who actually viewed our profile, right after we logged on, but were located on the opposite side of the earth from Korea (!??) and a couple looked like sex pros, but the dashboard on the AM site still told us that no locally available married women, including the ones we “winked” at, had viewed our profile. We are smug in a dejected sort of way at this point since we suspected that this very thing would happen, however we picked the sexiest pictures we could for our profile and feel that they have been wasted so far. Even Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung is more popular than we are and we feel we are collectively much more handsome than he is.
“no one has recently viewed your profile”!
We sent out more “winks” to certain local women to show our interest in them. We tried a combination of English and Korean but to no avail and still no members in Korea, who are Korean, have viewed our profile! Only one local “member” (we never “winked” at them) did view our profile but they were listed as having English as a primary language and wanted to only chat, which was not a selected option for our profile. Why were they trying to send a message to us? We were looking for action and fun; not “chatting”. Despite the sites’ statement in their terms and conditions that their “angel” bots would send messages to only “guests” we still received one message (with a Korean online name) from what apparently was a bot since the “member”(?) was not listed as having viewed our profile. We believe this should have been a violation of the terms and conditions of their site. (Note: we have kept a log and screenshots of everything as well just in case . . . )
A few listings did look like they *might* be actual people but we felt that the cost alone to determine if they were real would preclude investigating this further and some of the accounts had pictures that looked very much like the shots seen on those little business cards that litter the streets around Gangnam and Seolleung. Humm . . .
Even now, our conclusions are unanimous. We feel that people would have a better chance of meeting someone in Korea – married or not – by learning some Korean and learning how to smile and be pleasant rather than wasting their money and time on Ashley Madison’s site. This site left us with more doubts about the veracity of the site than fun. We think it is also probably a good idea for the Prosecutor’s Office, in Seoul, to investigate these people or have their site blocked since they are probably not the sort of people that should be allowed to operate in Korea.