Monday, July 20, 2009

Naked in the Jimjjilbang

Do you ever feel tired, sore and dirty? Do you ever wish you could find somewhere, 24 hours a day, to soak your aching muscles in hot water and scrub yourself clean for under $10? Do you ever wish you were in a room full of naked middle-aged Korean men?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then the jjimjilbang (Korean bathhouse) might be for you. Without intending to, I ended up going to a jjimjilbang on three separate occasions this past week.

Here's a summary of what I do at a jjimjilbang: take off clothes, shower, have around 20 older Korean men visually examine my nether regions, soak in hot bath, shiver in cold bath, sit in a steamroom filled with traditional healing herbs, shower again.

But a jjimjilbang is more than just a public bath. It's also a place for Koreans to meet and hang out casually. Inside the co-ed area, there's a video game room, some spots to take a nap, even a karaoke room.

Don't worry, the co-ed area is not nude! That's why I have this snazzy uniform. Everyone gets one at the door. Once you're clean, you put on your outfit and join your friends.

Some artificial logs to rest against while you watch T.V. or chat.

Of course, nothing says "take a nap" like a red light in a cavern...


kiki said...

haha i love the last line

j said...

This is great! Such an interesting culture... and just want to say that I love your blog and will be reading the entire thing.. I am going to South Korea for a year in February. This will help me know what to do while I'm there.

Chris Duffy said...

Hey J,

I'm glad to hear you like the blog. You're going to have a great adventure in Korea. The biggest piece of advice I could give someone heading over here is to learn and memorize hangeul (the Korean alphabet) before you get here. It's phonetic (not symbol-based like Chinese) and not that hard to get a hang of. You'll have a much better time here and be able to learn Korean right off the bat if you can read signs and menus.

Here's a website where you can see the characters and hear the corresponding sounds pronounced by native speakers.

Creative Commons License
Summer in Seoul by Chris Duffy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at