|The common room in the Jjimjilbang
Scene from the TV series Twenty Again
However, when you live in South Korea, there’s no way you can escape the chance to try the Jjimjilbang. I was on my weekend trip somewhere down south when the train suddenly stopped and the voice prompt advised everyone to get off the train because it’s already 12 midnight and subway operation will be shut down. I was worried because I’m far from where I lived and I have no place to stay. I don’t want to spend extra money for a hotel or motel room, so the only option is to find a jjimjilbang where I can spend the night. That was the start of my Jjimjilbang shenanigans and it has opened my eyes to all the naked truth about it.
Koreans call it Jjimjilbang, but usually, the building where it is located has the word “SAUNA” written on their sign boards. If you go on a trip all over Korea, you will find hundreds or even thousands of Saunas. This is how important it is in South Korea. While it is awkward to go all out naked and share a bath tub with the naked strangers, Koreans find this thing normal.
Usually, this is how the set up inside a jjimjilbang. When you enter the building, you must go to the counter first to pay. The entrance fee ranges from 8000 won($8) up to 15000 won ($15), the price depends on the size of the sauna and the popularity. Some examples of expensive saunas in Seoul are Siloam and Dragon Hill Spa, these are the most popular ones but also expensive. After you paid, they will give you your uniform. Yes, there’s a uniform and it is usually a pair of short pants and a shirt. Don’t expect too much though because several people had worn them before, so sometimes you will get a jaded and loose shirt but they’re generally clean.
After you got your uniform, you should go to the shoe locker, this is where you should leave your shoes. And then proceed to the bigger lockers where you should leave all your belongings including the clothes you are wearing. You only have one key and one locker, so you must take care of it and make sure you locked your own locker.
|This is how the locker room usually looks like
Scene from the TV series: Legen of the Blue Sea
|Friends, acquaintances, family members go all out naked in the sauna
Scene from TV series Perseverance Goo Hae Ra
|This is how the sleeping area usually looks like
Scene from the TV series:Legend of the Blue Sea
|The small store you can usually see in Jjimjilbang
Scene from the TV series: Legend of The Blue Sea
1. Don’t make an eye contact with other naked men inside the public bath.
2. Don’t leave your locker key anywhere, they usually put a band on every key, so wear it like a wrist band and make sure it never leaves your hands.
3. Don’t charge your phone at random outlets. There are designated outlets for charging, you must use it or else, it will be gone.
4. Don’t get too noisy in the sleeping area. People are trying to get some rest in the public place, so please respect.
After a one night stay, you can exit the jjimjilbang anytime you want the next day. Before going out, you must wear your regular clothes, make sure you pack all your belongings, then claim your shoes in the shoe locker, return the uniform at the counter and leave.
I can’t count now how many times I’ve been to Jjimjilbang but I’ve never been to a public bath with somebody I know. I am brave enough to go naked for as long as nobody knows me in the room. I guess I can’t do it with a friend or a family member or even just an acquaintance. I can’t! And I have no plans to put it on my bucket list.