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Are public baths common in Korea?


Public baths have been a part of Korean culture since the ancient times. The bathhouses, known as jjimjilbang, offer a unique and relaxing experience where people can unwind and socialize. However, with modernization and Western influences, the popularity of public baths has declined in recent years. In this article, we will explore the history and current status of public baths in Korea.

History of Public Baths in Korea

The tradition of public baths in Korea dates back to the 6th century when Buddhist temples offered communal bathing facilities for worshippers. In the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), public bathhouses became more common among the general population. During this time, jjimjilbangs also served as social gathering places where people could discuss politics, business, and daily life.

Features of Public Baths in Korea

Jjimjilbangs are not just about taking a bath but also provide a wide range of amenities such as saunas, hot tubs, massage services, and even sleeping areas. Some bathhouses also have restaurants, karaoke rooms, and game rooms. The atmosphere is usually relaxed and social, making it an ideal place for families and friends to spend time together.

The Decline of Public Baths in Korea

Despite their popularity in the past, public baths have seen a decline in recent years due to various factors. One reason is the rise of private bathrooms in homes and apartments. Another factor is the changing lifestyle of Koreans who prefer Western-style fitness centers and spas over traditional bathhouses.

Modernization of Public Baths

To remain relevant, some jjimjilbangs have undergone renovations to appeal to younger generations. Many now offer modern amenities such as virtual reality rooms, movie theaters, and indoor golf ranges. Some bathhouses also cater to specific demographics such as women-only or luxury facilities.

Benefits of Public Baths

Despite the decline in popularity, public baths still hold many benefits for those who visit them. They offer a unique cultural experience, promote relaxation and wellness, and can even improve skin health. Additionally, the social aspect of jjimjilbangs can help reduce stress and promote mental well-being.

Etiquette at Public Baths

Visitors to public baths should be aware of certain etiquette rules. It is customary to remove all clothing before entering the bath area and to thoroughly wash oneself before entering the hot tubs. Talking on cell phones and taking photos are generally not allowed, and visitors should be respectful of others’ privacy.

Accessibility of Public Baths in Korea

Public baths are still widely available throughout Korea, with many located in urban areas and tourist destinations. Most bathhouses are open 24 hours a day, making them a convenient option for those with busy schedules.

Costs of Public Baths

The cost of admission to jjimjilbangs varies depending on the facilities offered. Basic admission usually costs around 10,000 won ($8 USD), while luxury facilities can cost upwards of 50,000 won ($42 USD).

Public Bath Culture in Other Countries

Public baths are not unique to Korea but can be found in many other countries around the world. In Japan, public baths are known as onsen and are often located near hot springs. In Turkey, hamams offer traditional Turkish baths.


While the popularity of public baths in Korea has declined in recent years, they still hold an important place in the country’s culture and history. Jjimjilbangs offer a unique experience that promotes relaxation and wellness while also serving as social gathering places. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, visiting a public bath in Korea is a must-try experience.

Do Koreans have public baths?

A jjimjilbang is a big public bathhouse in South Korea that is segregated by gender and equipped with hot tubs, showers, traditional Korean saunas, and massage tables.

Why do Koreans go to public baths?

Before the 1970s and 80s, numerous households in Korea lacked sufficient space to shower at home, forcing individuals to visit public baths to properly clean themselves.

Is bathing together normal in Korea?

According to Korean culture, a strong bond can develop between individuals who bathe together. This belief may stem from the fact that the bathing process typically takes a long time, usually lasting at least an hour, and requires individuals to be fully undressed, revealing their entire bodies with no way to hide.

Are there still bathhouses in Korea?

The bathhouses located mostly in Seoul are a modern take on traditional Korean bathing culture, but they still maintain important elements such as full body scrubs. These new bathhouses offer a unique experience that blends old and new.

Is it OK to kiss in public in South Korea?

Public displays of affection, such as kissing, are viewed as inappropriate and disrespectful by older individuals in South Korea. While younger generations are becoming more accepting of it, it is still discouraged by elders. In South Korea, dressing nicely is seen as a way of showing respect.

Can you go to a Korean bath house on your period?

While doctors and onsen owners may advise against using hot springs during menstruation, there is no definitive answer on whether it is safe to do so.

In addition to their cultural and social significance, public baths in Korea also have economic importance. They contribute to the tourism industry and provide job opportunities for those working in the bathhouse industry. Many jjimjilbangs also offer affordable accommodation options for travelers or locals who need a place to stay for the night.

Despite the popularity of private bathrooms and modern fitness centers, some Koreans continue to visit public baths for their unique experience and health benefits. Public baths have been shown to improve blood circulation, relieve muscle tension, and reduce stress levels. The hot tubs and saunas can also help with respiratory issues and skin problems.

For visitors who may feel uncomfortable with the nudity aspect of public baths, many bathhouses offer private shower stalls or even bathing suits for rent. It is important to note, however, that the traditional Korean style of communal bathing without clothing is an important aspect of the jjimjilbang experience.

Overall, public baths in Korea offer a one-of-a-kind experience that combines relaxation, wellness, and socialization. Despite the challenges faced by the industry in recent years, jjimjilbangs continue to hold an important place in Korean culture and are worth experiencing for anyone interested in immersing themselves in Korean traditions.

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