Korean Bath Houses: Jimjilbang

Before residential plumbing was widely available in the world, different cultures all over the world had public bathing areas where people would go for some self care. Going to bathe was a special outing and it wasn’t treated the same way we take for granted now. Korea’s love of the communal bath house is so strong that there still exists a modern form of it. Commonly known as a jimjilbang, Korean bath houses became more known abroad thanks to its depiction on Korean dramas.

What is a Jimjilbang?

Jimjilbangs are bath houses that are commonly used for spa days, relaxation, or just to hang out with family and friends. Within a jimjilbang, you can find shared pools with varying temperatures like a hot and cold tub for blood circulation. Although there are different activities people can take part in at a jimjilbang, the main reason to go is to get a full body scrub.

Koreans love scrubbing dead skin off with towels in groups. It’s actually a communal activity where sometimes even strangers may offer to help you scrub hard to reach places like your back! Don’t worry, even though you need to enter bath areas naked, there are separate areas for men and women.

How to Use a Jimjilbang

When you check in, some jimjilbangs might require an hourly fee whereas some just have a one-time admittance price. Most jimjilbangs should not cost more than 20,000 Korean won to get in. After you pay, you’ll get a key for a small locker to keep your clothes and other belongings safe and then you can go to the gender-designated entrance.

Once you’ve put your clothes away and stripped down, head to the shower area to rinse off. It’s gross to get into a shared pool with your sweat and grime for everyone else to sit in so really hose down the top layer of dirt. Once you’re sufficiently showered, head to the bath area where you can oftentimes find varying temperatures of baths. Soak in the perfectly warm water and just relax and tune everything else out.

Give your dead skin enough time to soak in the moisture then it’s back to the shower area. Here, use a wet towel to scrub all over your body. As you scrub longer, the friction will cause your dead skin to peel and form small, dark bits. It’s nasty thinking about it but the end product will be worth it! If you need help scrubbing, a nearby bather will most likely be okay with helping you scrub. If you feel like your skin needs more time to soak, feel free to head back into the bath and repeat the process.

After you’ve had sufficient soaking and scrubbing, it’s time to change into the loose outfit the jimjilbang lends to its guests. You’ll also have dry towels available to wrap your hair as it dries. You can head to a nap area to take a rest or there are usually sauna rooms to let your pores open up and clear out. As many jimjimbangs are open 24 hours, feel free to take your time and relax. You can also buy snacks at the snack bar such as baked eggs and a traditional rice drink called sikhye during your stay.