They can be found all around Korea. During the Sixties when Korea was rapidly developing many homes didn’t have indoor plumbing. Public bath-houses were built to meet the demand of the rapidly developing society. Today, these bath-houses, called jim-jill-bangs (찜질방) are visited by Koreans everyday even though indoor plumbing is now common in homes throughout the Korean peninsula.
Visiting a bath-house in Korea is a bit daunting since it requires a bit of courage and total comfort with one’s nude body to disrobe in front of strangers. Also, it is not easy getting over the idea of bathing in the same water as complete strangers either. Although I have been to many bath-houses in Korea, I still wonder how clean the water really is. Yet Korean men and women shower, and shave before entering the waters in which case, the water is somewhat free of germs. At least that is what one hopes.
Whenver I am away from my apartment in another city for example I have let my adventurous nature and my need for cleanliness take over. In those instances, I’ve dove right in. It’s worth it. Usually the facilities are clean and well maintained.
Today I went to the local bath-house in my native Duho-dong which is the area I lived in during my first year in Korea. It’s called Hawaii and is one of the better maintained facilities around that area. It costs less than $5 for admission. Once inside, one can shower, bathe, swim, or do several other activities like watch television, or read, until their heart’s content.