Korean Sauna – JimJil Bang (찜질방)
In Korea, there are two main kinds of saunas. There are the regular Korean saunas that are unisex and then there are the Jim Jil Bangs that are partially co-ed. Older people tend to go to the unisex saunas, wheaeas younger people, whole families and certainly couples go to the JimJil Bang.
There is a reason JimJil Bangs are so popular. They have many amenties. In addition to just the basic sauna, they have PC rooms, gyms, TV rooms, ice rooms, restaurants, small libraries of books or comic books and even study rooms. It is a great place to go with your family or enjoy a day with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
JimJil Bang’s are also a cheap place to sleep for the night. If you are traveling in Seoul or around Korea, and do not have a lot of money, then just stop in at a JimJil Bang. Safety may be a concern since security is low and you are sharing a large sleeping area with loud snorers and sometimes the odd perv.
The Korean sauna is common place to end up after a night of drinking. A lot of young Koreans in Hongdae, and other drinking areas, will drink so late that it becomes too late to catch the bus or subway home. Rather than taking an expensive taxi and explaining to your parents why you are drunk so late, you can go with your friends to cheaply sleep it off.
It is also common for many women to tell their parents they are staying at a JimJil Bang with their female friends, but they’re actually traveling or sleeping elsewhere with their boyfriend.
It usually costs about 7,000-12,000 Korean won to stay at a JimJil Bang. The prices vary depending on location and the size of the place.
The process to stay at a Korean sauna is quite easy:
First, you pay.
You are then given a key to a locker, shorts and a t-shirt.
Place your shoes in a shoe locker.
Go into the change room. Men and women have separate change rooms.
Find your locker and strip naked.
Enjoy the various hot tubs at different temperatures while being blissfully naked with one’s respective gender group.
Dry off using commonly available towels.
Put on your shorts and t-shirt.
Finally, enter the common area. This area has both men and women. You can watch TV, use the internet, read comic books, eat dinner, exercise, go into saunas including an ice room. There are even areas set aside for children to play.
Be careful while roaming late at night as couples tend to find secret locations to be more intimate.
If you decide to stay there for the night, be warned that you probably won’t sleep particularly well. This shouldn’t be too surprising in light of the fact that you’ll be sharing a room filled with 100 people talking, playing, or thunderously snoring. I haven’t even mentioned the difficult to repress fear that someone will steal your belongings.