Bathhouses are special to Koreans. It’s a place where the epitome of Korean culture, “Jeong”, blossoms. Back in the days when large families were common, Koreans would flock to bathhouses on a Sunday morning and take warm baths with their family. No wonder scenes of a father-and-son rubbing their backs in bathhouses commonly appear on Korean films. These days, modern bathhouses called jjimjilbangs took over traditional bathhouses by combining leisure facilities with bathing areas. Some modern bathhouses have teamed up with major resorts featuring grand-scale water parks, golf courts, ski resorts and more. In the ever-blooming youthful district Hongdae, there was even a bathhouse-themed bar. So what is left of traditional bathhouses, and where will it go?
To understand the bathhouse culture deeply rooted in Koreans, you have to understand the Korean lingo “Jeong.” If is often said that there is no direct translation of that word. The closest would be human attachment and warm affection. In the 90s, it was common to see Korean families visiting bathhouses and spending quality time together. Bathhouses were once a lively place where Koreans would get together and show much affection, not to mention having to bare everything when taking a bath. However, due to the rise of small families and individual bathtubs replacing mass bathhouses, the once flourished bathhouses as well as Jeong culture are fading into history.
One of the oldest bathhouses in Korea, Korea bathhouse boasts a long history of 76 years. With its signature bathhouse symbol painted on the chimney, Korea bathhouse itself is a landmark, as it is easy to spot in the twisted alleys of Bukchon Hanok Village. In fact, Korea Bathhouse is closed all year except for group bathers over 30 people. It is quite sad to see a public place lose its functionality as commercialism took over the quiet place.
Address／地址: 12-1, Samchungro 4-gil, Jongro-gu, Seoul
Phone number／電話: 02-735-6218
Dragon Hill Spa
Since traditional bathhouses offering bathtubs and sauna facilities can’t thrive in the market as more bathers are turning their eyes to big spa resorts with resting and entertainment facilities, modern bathhouses today operate as jimjilbangs, the Korean dry sauna. The most well-known jimjilbang in Korea is Dragon Hill Spa, located in Yongsan. The spa aims to provide a nice getaway from modern hardships as a healing paradise boasting spa, massage, fitness, dining and bathing facilities.
傳統的澡堂漸漸消失，取而代之就是兼備各種娛樂悠閒設施的汗蒸幕。韓國最著名的汗蒸幕名叫 Dragon Hill Spa，位於龍山區。這裡集合水療、按摩、健身、飲食和澡堂，希望能夠為現代人提供一個減壓的好地方。
Address／地址: Dragon Hill Spa & Resort, 40-712, Hangangno 3-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone number／電話: 02-792-0001 (Main) 02-798-0114 (English)
Bathhouse-themed pub: Tang
In Hongdae, there once was a bathhouse pub. Named after the Korean word bathtub, pub Tang was themed after bathtubs. The pub featured crossed white tiles, bath baskets, towels, mirrors, locker keys, weight scale and shower booths. What more could we ask? To target the young, the pub organized events and games on special days. A good reminiscence of the past, Hongdae pub Tang was the go-to place for those who wanted to rub off their long week. Unfortunately, the self-proclaimed culture pub Tang has closed down last summer.
Taking a bath can have many meanings. The primary reason we take baths is for cleanliness and it can sometimes be medical purposes. Some people take baths for religious reasons to wipe off their sins, but we should not forget about how baths can have cultural means. For Koreans, taking a bath at a mass bathhouse can bring about memories of the past when big traditional households were common. After reading this, would you dare to make your way to a Korean bath? It’ll be a unique experience for those who haven’t been before, even more if you’re not used to being totally naked in public. One tip, though. Don’t forget to finish off the bath with a pack of banana milk to enjoy the utmost Korean bathing experience.