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Jjimjilbang sign in Apgujeong, Seoul
Jjimjilbang room
Young woman in a jjimjilbang

Jjimjilbang (Korean찜질방; Hanja蒸氣房; MRtchimjilbang; Korean pronunciation: [t͈ɕimdʑilbaŋ]) are bathhouses in South Korea which gained popularity in the 1990s.[1]

They are separated by gender and typically have hot tubs, showers, Korean traditional kiln saunas, and massage tables. Jjimjil is derived from the words meaning heating. 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 bunk beds or sleeping mats.[2] Many of the sleeping rooms have themes or elements to them. Usually jjimjilbang will have various rooms with temperatures to suit guests' preferred relaxing temperatures.[3] Walls can be decorated with woods, minerals, crystals, stones, and metals to make the ambient mood and smell more natural. The elements used have traditional Korean medicinal purposes in the rooms.[4]

Many jjimjilbang are open at all hours and are a popular weekend getaway for South Korean families. Some jjimjilbang allow customers to sleep there overnight. South Korean men, particularly those who work away from their families or stayed out late drinking or working, sleep in jjimjilbang overnight.[5] Theft, usually of smartphones, is occasionally a problem at some jimjilbang.[6]


Jjimjilbang 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 (children of both genders below seven years of age are free to intermingle) and take a shower. Then, one should wear the jjimjilbang clothes (usually a T-shirt and shorts, color-coordinated according to gender), which are received with the locker key.

In the bathing areas, there are kiln saunas with themes including a jade, a salt, or mineral kiln: the dome-shaped inside the kilns are plastered with jade powder, salt and mineral respectively.

Often there are several kilns with temperatures ranging from 15 to 50 °C (60 to 120 °F).[7] The temperature of the kilns is displayed on a sign at the entrance.


Some jjimjilbang have had their sanitary condition questioned, both in terms of facilities, clothes, and of food offered at the venue.[8][9] Concerns about the clothes increasing atopy symptoms in patients, or even of accidentally hosting parasites, have been voiced, although evidence was inconclusive.[10] Currently, health control standards are set by the Public Health Control Act.[11]

Korean sauna[edit]

Hanjeungmak (한증막; 汗蒸幕) is Korean traditional sauna. Intensely hot and dry, it uses traditionally burning wood of pine to heat a domelike kiln made of stone. Nowadays, hanjeungmak are incorporated into jjimjilbang rather than being independent facilities. Bulgama installed in jjimjilbang is a variety of hanjeungmak, heated with higher temperature. Sometimes the dome-shaped walls of kiln rooms are plastered with loam, salt, minerals.

The first mention of hanjeungmak, initially referred to as hanjeungso (한증소; 汗蒸所), is found in the Annals of Sejong in the 15th century.[12][13] The record also states that the Korean kiln saunas were used for medicinal purposes. At that time, hanjeungmak were state-supported kiln saunas maintained by Buddhist monks. Since 1429, saunas have been built as separate facilities for men and women.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "공중 목욕의 역사···종교의식에서 사교의 공간으로" [History of public bathing... From religious ritual to social space]. Kyunghyang Shinmun. December 11, 2015.
  2. ^ "Naked etiquette: From onsens in Japan to jjimjilbangs in South Korea". Channelnewsasia.com. Archived from the original on 2018-05-08. Retrieved 2018-05-08.
  3. ^ Roh, Jaemin (14 July 2017). Essential Korean Reader. ISBN 9781317283478.
  4. ^ Government, Seoul Metropolitan (11 December 2014). "Seoul Medical Tourism Guide book: Restore Your Energy Seoul Medical & Wellness".
  5. ^ Milner, Rebecca. "First-time jjimjilbang: how to visit a Korean bathhouse". Lonelyplanet.com. Archived from the original on 18 August 2016. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  6. ^ "남동경찰서, 찜질방내 스마트폰 도난 예방법 - 국제뉴스". Gukjenews.com. 20 February 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  7. ^ "Guidebook for Living in Korea". 10 October 2015.
  8. ^ "찜질방서 곰팡이, 무좀균까지…위생관리 '빨간불'". The Hankyoreh. 10 June 2010. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  9. ^ "≪신문고뉴스≫ 강남 3개 찜질방 식품위생법 위반 등으로 적발돼". Shinmoongo.net. 24 June 2010. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  10. ^ 건강을 위한 첫걸음 - 세균 천국 찜질방, 위생상태 비상!!. hidoc.co.kr. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  11. ^ "별표·서식". Law.go.kr. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  12. ^ 한영준 (10 May 2016). "조선보다 못한 '한증막 안전'". 세이프타임즈 (in Korean). Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Jjimjilbang: a microcosm of Korean leisure culture". The Korea Herald. 1 April 2010. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  14. ^ 김용만. "온천". 네이버캐스트 (in Korean). Retrieved 25 March 2017.

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