K-CULTURE: 「정」:消失中的韓國澡堂文化

HF Crewon February 25, 2015 at 10:33 am

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?

對於韓國人而言,澡堂是一個特別的地方,事關它是韓國「정」文化的縮影。昔日,韓國家庭普遍人多,一家大細逢星期日早上便會浩浩蕩蕩到公共澡堂去洗澡,難怪韓國電影中常常出現互相擦背的情節。今天,傳統的公共澡堂被集娛樂設施與澡堂於一身的「汗蒸幕 」取而代之,有些現代的澡堂更與主要度假區合作,去一趟汗蒸幕就能同時到大型水上樂園、高爾夫球場和滑雪場一遊。在年輕的弘大地區,甚至出現一個以澡堂為主題的酒吧。那麼,傳統的韓國澡堂究竟何去何從呢?

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.


Korea Bathhouse

korean bathhouse korean bathhouse

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.

韓國最古老的澡堂,有76年歷史,其標誌性的煙筒印有澡堂的品牌商標,是北村的地標,即使身處北村韓屋村的蜿蜒巷子也輕易看到這個古老澡堂。可是,Korea Bathhouse一年基本上都不會對個別人士開放,除非是30人以上的團體。一個公共空間喪失了它原本的功能,筆者不禁為到商業化所帶來的改變感到黯然。

Address/地址: 12-1, Samchungro 4-gil, Jongro-gu, Seoul
Phone number/電話: 02-735-6218

Dragon Hill Spa

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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

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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.


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