HAVE YOU ever met your friends at a Jjimjilbang to hang out by sweating away your stress in a heated clay room? Jjimjilbang is a large Korean steam room enjoyed by people of all ages and genders. Different from the Sauna which heats the air to warm the place, Jjimjilbang utilizes Korean traditional floor heating system, Ondol. Recently, Jjimjilbang has become not only a place of relaxation but also a place of entertainment since it has a variety of recreational facilities that can be enjoyed with friends and family. Thus, it is regarded as a new gathering spot for Koreans. The Yonsei Annals asked 100 Yonseians about their views on the unique Korean Jjimjilbang.
Two sides of Jjimjilbang
90 Yonseians said that they have been to a Jjimjilbang at least once. Seemingly a popular getaway from the busy daily routine for Yonseians, it still has both bright and dark sides.
To the question asking the biggest advantage of Jjimjilbang, 29 students replied “sweating while lying on heated floor.” 27 people said that they like it as a gathering place. Considering that students picked their friends (73) and families (17) as their most preferred partner to go to Jjimjilbang with, Yonseians seem to enjoy it usually with their close acquaintances.
In relation to the survey above, Kim Chan-ho (Prof., Dept. of General Education, Sungkonghoe Univ.) provides an interesting opinion about Jjimjilbang’s social meaning. “Different from the common leisure facilities in Korea such as theaters or karaokes, Jjimjilbang can achieve the true meaning of “socializing”. In Jjimjilbang, people can gather and talk in a relaxed mood even with total strangers. In this sense, it brings positive effects to our relationship with others.”
On the other hand, when asked, “What is the biggest disadvantage of Jjimjilbang?”, almost half of the respondents (49) answered that the unsanitary conditions are the biggest problem. Since most Jjimjilbang are opened 24 hours and usually huge in size, it becomes difficult to maintain a clean facility.
Yonseians’ usage of Jjimjilbang
There are lots of recreational facilities in Jjimjilbang. Among these, nap rooms are favored by 29 students. These rooms are used not only for naps, but also for overnight stays. When asked “Have you been slept overnight in Jjimjilbang?” 65 students said yes and 40 of which were males. This might be because women are more concerned about safety issues than men. The PC rooms and video arcades (23), and massage centers (23) are also popular past times.
The snack bar in Jjimjilbang offers various foods which are rarely sold in other places. Iced beverages are the most popular among Yonseians (64). Especially in Jjimjilbang, they offer iced Sikhye, Korean traditional sweet rice drink, and iced Bacchus, a popular energy drink in Korea. Also, 26 Yonseians said they loved the hard boiled eggs.
Moreover, lots of unique Jjimjilbangs have become popular recently. For instance, some Jjimjilbangs provide useful lectures with various topics such as healthy food cooking for middle-aged women, and studying methods for teenagers. There are also ice Jjimjilbangs with snowflakes falling all over the room which enables the visitors to cool their body after heating.
Health and Jjimjilbang
In response to the effects of Jjimjilbangs on our health, 43 students believed that it helps get rid of body wastes. In addition, 25 said that Jjimjilbangs can reduce stress, while 19 students said that they believe there is no clear relationship between health and Jjimjilbang.
However, Jjimjilbang truly has some positive effects on building a healthy body by radiating infrared rays from heated floor and walls. According to Yoo Taiwoo (Representative, Center for New Healthy Person), the infrared rays boost metabolism and blood circulation. “Infrared rays enable us to lessen muscle pain. It also changes our acidified body into an alkaline body, purifying our blood,” says Yoo. Adding to this, sweating can help us get rid of body wastes, though too much sweat can remove necessary minerals from bodies. Thus, it is not wise to sweat too much with the intention to become slim.
To enjoy Jjimjilbang in a healthy way, we should be highly aware of our personal hygiene. “Since more and more people are visiting Jjimjilbang, the infection rate has enormously increased. Students who want to enjoy a healthy Jjimjilbang culture should prepare their own towels rather than only use the ones that Jjimjilbangs provide,” adds Yoo.
Jjimjilbang as a tourist attraction
Do you think Jjimjilbang would be popular to foreigners as well? Most Yonseians (80) have positive views on the popularity of Jjimjilbang among foreigners because of its benefits on health and its unique atmosphere reflecting our culture. And surprisingly, this turned out to be true when the Annals asked 100 foreigners about their perception on Jjimjilbang.
Among 100 foreigners taking classes in the Korean Language Institute (KLI), 93 said that they have heard of Jjimjilbangs. Among them, 72 foreigners have actually been to one. Most foreign respondents said that it was very exotic and exciting place for them. Lim Mi-ri (KLI, Brazil) said, “Going to Jjimjilbang with my friends was an interesting experience. At first, I felt a little bit awkward because it was hard to understand the culture of sweating intentionally. But I soon became used to it and enjoyed it.”
Since the respondents are the ones who are more familiar with the Korean culture than those who are totally new to this country, it is hard to assert that Jjimjilbang is very popular to all of them. However, considering the fact that the “INSPA World” in New York City, equipped with Jjimjilbang, is also very popular, Jjimjilbang could become an attraction not only for tourists in Korea but also for foreigners in other countries as well.
♨ ♨ ♨
To the question “What is the most annoying behavior in Jjimjilbang?” more than one-third of the respondents (38) mentioned the noisy chatting. Following this, 19 pointed out the excessive public displays of affection. 14 students felt annoyed by the people who do not clean up their trash before they leave. Although Jjimjilbang is a unique place with a lot of advantages reflecting Korean tradition, first, personal efforts are required to solve the aforementioned problems and fully enjoy the place. Maintaining a sanitary environment and showing consideration for other visitors would help everyone to enjoy a healthy and friendly Jjimjilbang culture.
<The latest Jjimjilbang fashion> : Making towel sheep's head