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A jjimjilbang (Hangul: 찜질방; hanja: 찜질房) is a large, gender-segregated public bathhouse in Korea, furnished with hot tubs, showers, Korean traditional kiln saunas and massage tables. Jjimjil is derived from the words meaning heating. However, in other areas of the building or on other floors there are unisex areas, usually with a snack bar, ondol-heated floor for lounging and sleeping, wide-screen TVs, exercise rooms, ice rooms, heated salt rooms, PC bang, noraebang, and sleeping quarters with either bunk beds or sleeping mats. Many of the sleeping rooms can have themes or elements to them. Usually jjimjilbangs will have various rooms with different temperatures to suit guests' preferred relaxing temperatures. The walls are decorated with different woods, minerals, crystals, stones, and metals. This is to make the ambient mood and smell more natural. Often the elements used have traditional Korean medicinal purposes in the various rooms.
Most jjimjilbangs are open 24 hours and are a popular weekend getaway for Korean families. During the week, many hardworking Korean men, whose families live out of the city for cost savings, stay in jjimjilbangs overnight after working or drinking with co-workers late into the night. The cost is around 6,000–10,000 South Korean won to enter, and one can sleep overnight and enjoy the bathhouse and sauna. Jjimjilbangs are also popular with Korean women, especially the rooms made of loess (called "Hwang toe(Yellow Mud)" in Korean).
Jjimjilbangs usually operate 24 hours a day. In the entrance, there are the doors labelled “men” or “women” and shoes are to be stored using a given key. Once inside, the shoe locker key is exchanged with another locker key to store clothes and belongings. Afterwards bathers walk into the gender-segregated bathhouse area and take a shower. Then, one should wear the jjimjilbang clothes (usually a T-shirt and shorts), which are received with the locker key.
In the bathing areas, there are different kinds of kiln saunas with varying themes including a jade kiln, a salt kiln, a mineral kiln: the dome-shaped inside walls of kiln rooms are plastered with jade powder, salt and mineral respectively. Often there are several kilns with different temperatures ranging from 60 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 50 degrees Celsius). The temperature of the kilns is displayed on a sign at the kiln entrance.
Jjimjilbangs are always kept in a very sanitary condition for the overall health of patrons, and most are cleaned continuously. No harsh chemicals are used in the waters or saunas.
All wet areas prohibit the use of clothing for safety reasons. With the extreme heat of the baths and steam rooms, it is believed that toxic chemicals can leach out of apparel and into the body. It is also believed that if you wear a swimsuit or cover up you may be trying to hide a disease.
Recently, the hygienic quality and healthiness of some jjimjilbangs were questioned, especially the proper washing of clothing provided by the jjimjilbangs. Concerns about the clothes increasing atopy symptoms in patients, or even of accidentally hosting parasites, were voiced, although the evidence was inconclusive.
- Iced Sikhye is a popular drink sold in jjimjilbangs. It normally costs ₩1,000–2,000 North or South Korean won.
- Baked eggs (맥반석) are another popular snack. These are slow-cooked in the hottest sauna. They are eaten like a hard-boiled egg(삶은 계란).
- Iced coffee
- "건강을 위한 첫걸음 - 세균 천국 찜질방, 위생상태 비상!!". hidoc.co.kr. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jjimjilbang.|
- Seoul’s Public Bathhouses and Jjimjilbang Official Seoul City Tourism
- For All Kinds of Good, Clean Fun, Koreans Turn to Bathhouses (2008-10-04) New York Times article
- Database of Korean Saunas at Saunascape.com
- Seoul Zimzilbang Toronto at Seoul Zimzilbang Toronto