The Allure of Korean JjimJilbangs

The Allure of Korean JjimJilbangs is strong with this one!

Korean JjimJilbangs, or saunas, are essentially baths and spas where people come in, get naked, sweat and relax.  Upon hearing about them, most foreigners are appalled about being around a bunch of naked people- especially quite possibly being the only foreigner. Only one visit is needed to put this fear to rest and fall in love with these cultural phenomena. 

Korean Jjimjilbangs are not just baths and spas.  Some of the nicer ones contain a variety of other features.  Yongsan, which is the most famous one in Korea, is equipped with an outdoor pool, multiple restaurants, a TV room, gym, arcade and several other features.  Virtually all the JJB’s (as I call them) are equipped with at least one restaurant, massage area, smoking room and snack bar, and most have PCs available to satisfy the ubiquitous demand for internet in Korea.  Virtually every single one is different in its amenities and layout, and all can be considered to be unique. 

IMG_0343So why come to a JJB?  What is the allure?  What is the appeal?  For starters, it is a time of relaxation and rejuvenation.   One can sit and sweat in relative peace (unless there happens to be screaming kids running around), and get away from the hustle and tussle of daily life in Korea, which can be quite demanding and stressful.  Next, there is the undeniable social aspect.  Many times whole families will come together, business partners, friends, and numerous young couples will come together to share time.  In the common area (where clothes must be worn), people will socialize and share drinks and meals together.  In the private bathing area, once the clothes are removed everyone becomes equal.  From the taxi driver, to the business man, all are equally naked and equally relaxed- something that is certainly not the case once it is left.

As a foreigner, I am a bit obsessed with Korean JjimJilbangs.  In one stint, I was homeless for two months and lived at one- I was the nicest smelling and groomed homeless man on the planet!  And still now, on a weekly basis I go at least once, or twice!  The allure still draws me and other foreigners as well.  So far, I have literally taken dozens of family members and friends.  I swear, at least 95 percent of the people who walk away swear they have discovered the fountain of youth and have almost always said it was the number one experience in Korea!  So, why don’t you give this unique cultural aspect of Korea a try!!?