Jjimjilbang, a Place to Relax and Sweat

기사승인 [401호] 2023.04.05  


   Have you ever heard of a jjimjilbang? If you're a foreigner, you probably have not. A jjimjilbang is one of Korea's unique cultural facilities. It is a fusion between a sauna and a bathhouse. You can bathe in the bathhouse and relax in saunas all under different temperatures. Visitors are provided garments to wear while exploring the comforts of the facility. The Dankook Herald (DKH) explored the jjimjilbang, an undervalued tourist spot for travelers, and provides tips on how to make the most of your experience.

▲ Dankook Herald Reporters Trying on the Sheep-Head Shaped Towel (Photo from The Dankook Herald)

   Jjimjilbangs are located all around Korea. They reflect the traditional Ondol culture of the nation. Among young people, jjimjilbangs are well-known for their affordable accommodation and as great spots for dates. Jjimjilbang are affordable places to sleep for the cash-strapped traveler or those who simply missed the last bus home. Travelling can be hard on the body and the warm heated floors of the Jjimjilbang helps the stiff joints recover. A Jjimjilbang is a place where you sweat by exposing yourself to heated charcoal kilns. The bathhouse also serves as a place for you to wash away your sweat once you are warmed up and feeling good again. There are many jjimjilbangs with room temperatures ranging from 20℃ to 70℃. They include a cold room, salt room, charcoal room, and a red clay room. Sitting in a Jjimjilbang can improve your blood circulation and skin care, reduce fatigue, and help your diet efforts. But you should exercise caution using a jjimjilbang after drinking. Excessive sweat and dehydration are a dangerous mix. 

   While the jjimjilbang seems like a contemporary invention, they have actually been around for a long time. Before the 2000s, the typical jjimjilbang ignited heat that remained after baking charcoal or ceramic in a kiln. This type of sauna has been around since the Joseon Dynasty. Traditionally it was a place for washing off the sweat and treating ailments. In contrast, present day saunas have bathhouses as well as recreational facilities such as small theaters, restaurants, computer rooms, and comic bookstores.

   The DKH visited a modern Jjimjilbang at the Starfield Anseong Mall. The admission is 19,000 won for 6 hours of enjoyment. The facility was more contemporary than a conventional jjimjilbang, equipped with various sauna rooms and other recreational amenities. Reporter Yoon recommended the G.X room, where people can do exercises such as yoga or Pilates. Exercising and then washing off your sweat is a healthy way to experience this location. In fact, she felt very refreshed after her workout and bath. Reporter Kim suggested the Outdoor Foot Spa. The foot spa is a space to relieve the weariness of your feet. Visitors soak their feet in moderately warm water to help improve blood circulation and calm the mind. Finally, reporter Jeong highly recommended the Relax room. He goes to a jimjilbang to hang out rather than to get sweaty, so the Relax room suited his objectives. 

▲ Photo of Roasted Eggs and Sikhye in a Jjimjilbang (Photo from The Dankook Herald)

   Jjimjilbangs offer a wide variety of enjoyable activities to relax and pass the time and sell a variety of Korean, Chinese, and Western meals, as well as light snacks such as dumplings, roasted eggs, and Sikhye. Scenes at jjimjilbangs often appear in many Korean dramas or movies. Normally the actors are playing simple games while eating roasted eggs. The winner of whatever game they are playing gets to break the egg on the loser’s head. Because of these scenes, the practice of eating roasted eggs while playing simple games has become common at jjimjilbangs across the country. Koreans also enjoy eating hot soup in jjimjilbangs. If you are unfamiliar with Korean culture, it will probably be difficult for you to understand why Koreans love to eat hot meals in a heated place. It is because Koreans feel refreshed by sweating it out, and eating a hot meal in a hot place. Another famous cultural practice while visiting a jjimjilbang is to wear a ‘sheep-head shaped towel’. The sheep-head shaped towel looks like a sheep’s horn on your head and is made by folding the towel in a particular manner before placing it on your head. This sheep-head shaped towel that people enjoy wearing can only be found at the jjimjilbang and it endears to people with its uniqueness. The DKH tried several dishes after sweating in the jjimjilbang. We enjoyed the roasted eggs and Sikhye and felt replenished after eating a spicy noodle soup called Kalguksu.

   The Jjimjilbang has long been a place that has helped Koreans recover from fatigue and provided a safe and inexpensive place to stay. As time passed, jjimjilbangs have evolved to more spa-like atmospheres and are no longer only taking charge as shelters. Whatever their form, they appeal to us because of their convenience and comforts of features such as restaurants, daycare centers, and sports facilities. Above all, the most attractive point is that, depending on the type of sauna and spa you go to, your skin will improve, insomnia will be relieved and your body will rid itself of toxins through sweat. So why don't you consider experiencing this marvelous space called a 'jjimjilbang'? It is a traditional space in Korea that is enjoyable at a reasonable price. What are you waiting for?


윤희원, 김주연, 정영훈

<저작권자 © The Dankook Herald 무단전재 및 재배포금지>




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