JJIMJILBANG GUIDE – THE SAFE ONDOL HAVEN FOR THE WEARY AND BURDENED
If jjimjilbang 찜질방, the Korean spa was available in the olden days, it surely would have been the safe haven for the weary and burdened. The original form of jjimjilbang is considered to be a sweat room called hanjeungmak 한증막 that had been in place since the Joseon Dynasty, which used the remaining heat in the kilns after baking charcoal or pottery.
The heated floors are inspired by the traditional Korean ondol system, which explains why Koreans love sitting on the floor. Today’s jjimjilbang, which combines a bathhouse with a steam/sweat room first appeared in 1994, spread nationwide, and has evolved into a multi-purpose recreation center which offers not just rest but also entertainment. Most jjimjilbangs operate 24 hours a day, with a dedicated sleeping area featuring comfy leather sofas, recliners, and couches. Some high-end facilities even offer mini caves for individual use! And with the relatively inexpensive cost, it’s a decent alternative to traditional lodging. Not only that, but PC rooms are also available so you can keep current with your work.
JJIMJILBANG GUIDE – FOOD
But the most awesome part about jjimjilbang is the restaurant/snack facilities! You can find a wide range of menu choices, from instant noodles and sundubu jjigae 순두부 찌개 to kimchi bokkeumbap 김치볶음밥 (kimchi fried rice, recipe HERE) and chicken, but the “jjimjilbang specialty” is in the snack corner – cracking open some maekbanseok gyeran 맥반석 계란 (eggs baked on elvan stone plates) or quenching your thirst after an intense sweating session with bingsu 빙수 (shaved ice), sujeonggwa 수정과 (cinnamon punch), and ice-cold shikhye 식혜 (rice punch). They are enjoyed by everyone, Koreans and non-Koreans alike.
Try boiled egg with Paldo Rice Punch (Pack of 12) [Amazon]
Paldo Cinnamon Punch 12 Can Set [Amazon]
JJIMJILBANG GUIDE – TYPES OF SAUNA ROOMS AND THEIR SAID HEALTH BENEFITS
Disclaimer – THIS IS NOT MEDICAL/HEALTH ADVICE
Jade Room – Constipation, Diarrhea, Indigestion, Meningitis, Menstrual Pain, Arthritis.
Herb Room – Nervousness, High Blood Pressure, Blood Circulation, Muscle Ache, Joint Pain.
Clay Room – Arthritis, Muscle Ache, Metabolism, Blood Circulation, Detoxification
Salt Room – Arthritis, Skin Rejuvenation, Blood Circulation
Germanium Room – Blood Circulation, Pain Relief, Muscle Ache, Joint Pain.
Most of the jjimjilbangs have sex-segregated and unisex sections. Obviously, the dressing and bathing rooms are separated, but most steam/sweat rooms and heated communal floors are unisex, though they vary from business to business. There are, however, single-sex only jjimjilbangs, so you might want to check before walking in.
JJIMJILBANG GUIDE – UNIFORM
Once inside, you are to leave behind the clothes you were once in from the secular world and put on the uniform provided by the jjimjilbang. Don’t worry – it’s not to strip you of your individuality but to prevent the facility from getting polluted and contaminated by the germs and viruses you might have carried from outside. Most of the time it wouldn’t be your favorite color or style, but everyone else is in the same shoes.
WHAT IS THE KOREAN “LAMB HEAD TOWEL HAT’ AND HOW TO MAKE IT?
Made by rolling up both sides of a towel and wrapping around the head, the yangmeori 양머리 “Lamb/Sheep Head” towel hat became popular after the main character Kim Sam-soon, wore it in a hit TV drama Nae Ireumeun Kim Sam-soon 내 이름은 김삼순 (My Name is Kim Sam-soon / My Lovely Sam Soon, 2005, MBC). In jjimjilbang, many people. regardless of age/sex. do it because it absorbs sweat and keeps the hair from going awry while adding some cuteness (you know how Koreans are obsessed with looks!).
JJIMJILBANG GUIDE – WHY DO KOREANS SCRUB THEIR BODY?
Throughout its life, a lobster sheds its shell up to 25 times, revealing a shiny new coat each time. Humans, lacking such ability, relied on other methods – Cleopatra enjoyed bathing in wine, and Yang Guifei in milk, to keep their skin supple and soft. Meanwhile, in Korea, ttaemiri 때밀이 which literally means “body (dirt) scrubbing” has been a popular way to achieve the same result. In most Korean public baths and spa jjimjilbang, there are sesinsa 세신사, or “professional body cleansers” who will help you with the complete shedding process. First, soak your body in warm water for about 10 minutes and soften the dead skin cells. Then, entrust your body into the hands of the professional body cleansers, who are equipped with special scrubbing towels and gloves, better known as itaeri towel 이태리 타월. The pros will buff your body thoroughly, so all you need to do is just turn your body over and around per the guidance of the pros. When all done, you will be surprised to see a bunch of thin dark strings, similar to eraser shavings. They are the clumped dead skin cells of your body called ttae 때, meaning “body dirt.” While some dermatologists claim that such an abrasive method could do more harm than good to your skin, but many people, including Amanda Seyfried and Miranda Kerr, swear by it because you can see instant results! I’m not sure if the same can be said for Conan O’Brien who tried ttaemiri in Los Angeles’ Koreatown… It looks like poor Conan received some sort of medieval punishment…
WHAT IS “ITALY TOWEL”?
Koreans have been using itaeri towel (Italy towel) since the late inventor Kim Pil-gon invented a durable towel using viscose rayon in the 1960s after two years of research. Before that, people used to wrap towels over a stone for buffing. The name “itaeri” comes from the fact that the weaving machine and dyes were made in Italy.
Say goodbye to your dead skin cells with JSA Korean Body Scrub Genuine Exfoliating Bath Mitten [Amazon]