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Avatar of GI KoreaBy on January 22nd, 2011 at 7:02 pm

What I Like About Korea: #25 – Jimjilbang Saunas

Over the next few weeks I plan on running down a list of the Top 25 thing I like about Korea.  There is a lot to like about Korea so it should be interesting to see if the things I point out as liking is similar to what other long time expat friends and residents of Korea like as well.  So without any further introduction here is the #25 on my list.

#25 – Jimjilbang Saunas

While living or visiting Korea you have to at least go native one time and try out one of the jimjilbang saunas.  These saunas can be found all over Korea and a very popular place for local to relax.  The first place you see when entering a jimjilbang is the front desk where you pay to enter the sauna.  The jimjilbang’s are usually very inexpensive, about $5-$10 a visit.  After paying you get a key to a locker to put your belongings in.  From there you take a shower and a grab a towel before walking over to either the male or female sauna area.  In the sauna area there hot tubs and massage tables.  From there you can go to the family area where it usually has ondol heated floors to lie and sleep on as well as games and even Internet cafes for the kids.  As a foreigner expect to get some stares because Koreans are just not used to seeing naked foreigners.  So that may make some people uncomfortable, but once you get over it jimjilbangs are a great place to relax and meet Koreans in a different setting.

For those wanting to read more about the Jimjilbangs, Seoul Style has a pretty expansive article on the topic worth checking out.

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  • kushibo
    3:23 pm on January 22nd, 2011 1

    Jimjilbang are cheap places to crash for the night.

  • Tom Langley
    4:00 pm on January 22nd, 2011 2

    When I was stationed in Korea I never went to a jimjibang but one time I went to a public bath. There was no door on the female dressing room so I kept on walking back & forth catching a peak every time I walked by. The females inside were totally nude. Well after walking by a couple of times a part of me was standing at the position of attention so I had to stop.

  • Chris in South Korea
    4:47 pm on January 22nd, 2011 3

    Just went to one in Hongdae after partying til 2am. Straight out exit 9 (the old exit 5), walk 10 minutes, in the basement of a big building (just look for the usual array of words).

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  • Tom
    11:05 pm on January 22nd, 2011 5

    #3, so where do Koreans get this crazy stereotypes about white guys as sexually uncontrollable? :roll:

  • LG DACOM Stinks, Roy
    12:09 am on January 23rd, 2011 6

    Tom, no kidding.

  • WhatTheKimchi
    1:09 am on January 23rd, 2011 7

    Good idea and good choice. I miss jimjilbangs.

  • Chris In Dallas
    2:46 am on January 23rd, 2011 8

    #2, There is a jimjilbang-like operation here in Dallas called King Spa and Sauna. I've been to it a couple times and have always enjoyed it (although the snack bar food is expensive). Lots of Koreans coming from out of town will check into this place rather than a hotel. Makes a lot of sense since the rates are much cheaper.

  • PubicEnema
    2:50 am on January 23rd, 2011 9

    TinyMemberTom and LG: the same place foreigners get the idea that Korean guys regularly beat their girlfriends and wives of course. :lol:

  • Tom Langley
    5:26 am on January 23rd, 2011 10

    Tom #5, I just looked but I didn't do anything so I was under (self) control. However when my girlfriend & I went back to our hooch I foxtroted the snot out of her.

  • ChickenHead
    6:21 am on January 23rd, 2011 11

    Jimjilbang Saunas?

    They have almost the same thing in the States…

    …well… almost…

  • Jeff Fisher
    8:34 am on January 23rd, 2011 12

    Been to those bath houses 3 or 4 times with my Korean brother in law. Never

    felt at ease because I was sure in my mind that the natives were checking out my package. I spent my time in there concentrating on averting my eyes from everyone and never lowered my head, lest someone think I was a homo.

    In Germany I went with a German friend to a similar set up but the women

    and men were together. Started to get a "woody" and had to haul butt out

    of that steam room and into the cold water spa. Some cultural differences are hard to overcome and adapt too, for me anyway. How great it is looking

    back at those unique and interesting experiences. I feel sorry for those that did not join the armed forces of this great nation and really

    get to live life to it's fullest. I will be back in Korea for vacation in

    May and June so if you see a tall 6'1 white guy with a 6'1 Korean in a bath

    house say hello (but please don't look down).

  • Ryan
    2:34 pm on January 23rd, 2011 13

    I went to a Korean bath-house in the city where I live here in Australia and it was pretty uncomfortable. I'm sure the experience is vastly different in Korea itself, but I didn't really get the point here – it was pretty much a big locker room with a TV room attached. I'm not exactly sure what the actual attraction is.

    I have no doubt whatsoever that at least some of the patrons were indeed there for the titillation of checking out other dudes' junk.

  • Tom Langley
    4:19 pm on January 23rd, 2011 14

    Chickenhead #11, After DADT repeal I guess they will have 'gay' bathhouses on post. When I was in Korea in '79-'80 in Yongsan they had a sauna on post where the young lady would give you a massage & a hand job if you weren't in the mood for going down to the ville. We used to call it the "steam & cream".

  • ChickenHead
    6:46 pm on January 23rd, 2011 15

    Tom L.,

    They had a "massage & a hand job" only? That sounds more like a Rub & Tug.

    They still have Steam & Creams in Korea on the local economy… a bath, a massage, sex, a bath.

    A lot of single working guys will go there after drinking. Foreigners who present themselves well and go with them will generally be served and can go back alone once they become known.

    The cost starts around 70,000.

    I still say any American under 30 who has anything going for them shouldn't need this service in Korea… but I guess some people are just too lazy to invest in a couple dates to seal the deal with a regular girl… frequently with the excuse that the prostitutes are cheaper… which may be true… but, while sex is an important conclusion in such matters, hanging out and enjoying the company of an attractive woman who is interested in you is something money can't buy…

    …and I have yet to see an affordable prostitute that looks better than the quality of girl I like to go out with…

    …but then I am a REALLY cheap date… as I find that sorts out the players and opportunists from the real girls very quickly.

  • setnaffa
    12:20 am on January 24th, 2011 16

    Chickenhead #14 speaks the truth. Hear him. :mrgreen:

  • Jeff Fisher
    3:27 am on January 24th, 2011 17

    Tom L.#13: The "massage" and steam baths were unisex of course. Word on the

    street has it that the CG's wife was a bit naive and did not know what really

    was the draw there. She went to get a massage and as someone that went

    there knows, the cubicles were not all that private. A curtain for a door.

    She picked up on what was going on and reported it to her hubby. A discrete

    investigation was done and all those places were closed down.

  • kushibo
    3:39 am on January 24th, 2011 18

    Jeff, I heard the same story (regarding Yongsan), but with a chaplain instead of a CG's wife. The only possible conclusion is that a chaplain must have been shacked up with a CG and posing as his "wife." Sick bastards.

  • Jeff Fisher
    4:05 am on January 24th, 2011 19

    KUSHIBO#18: Your version adds a lot more drama and zing to the scenario! I

    love it. If I ever write a book about my time in Korea, I am going with

    your take.

  • Tom Langley
    4:47 am on January 24th, 2011 20

    Kushibo #18, F'ing hilarious! Chickenhead #14. Before I was stationed in Korea I had heard a lot of 'war stories' from other soldiers so of course I wanted to go. All I wanted to do in Korea was foxtrot my brains out (marriage or any long term relationship was the furthest thing from my mind), get stoned, & get drunk. I must say that I achieved my goals admirably. Some of the things I wanted to do sexually (remember a woman has 3 orifices) a decent girls would probably not have done. When I derosed back to the states I met a nice Korean lady who was a devout Christian (I never told her my war stories from Korea) & we got married. She had rheumatic fever when she was a child which was not treated correctly so she had endocarditis & had a artificial mitral valve implanted before I ever met her. We had lived together for 2 or 3 years before we got married but we were only married for 10 months before she passed away. Artificial valves aren't as good as the ones that God made. I have a 27 year old son who lives in CA from that relationship. Anyway after a couple of years I met another woman & I have been married for 23 years. We have two sons together & a 34 year old stepson that she had from a previous relationship. Anyway I had a blast when I was stationed in Korea & I'll never forget it.

  • ChickenHead
    5:52 am on January 24th, 2011 21

    Tom L.,

    I'm very sorry about your Korean wife. I hope the short time you spent together was happy and I hope, as a normal Korean girl, she gave you an appreciation of Korea that far too many foreigners, who know only the bar scene and the girls who come from it, never achieve.

    Congratulations on your currently enduring marriage. Your current wife is SE Asian… Laos or Cambodia… or am I confused? If not, any advice you can pass on comparing NE and SE Asian wives?

    One positive thing about prostitutes is that you can try things out you would never ask a wife to do… since being able to respect a wife as an equal is very, very important…

    …and making her and 3 of her friends have a Who Can Give the Strongest Hummer or Who Tosses the Deepest Salad contest isn't something you want to think of when she has your babies.

  • kushibo
    5:56 am on January 24th, 2011 22

    I'm sorry about your loss, Tom.

  • ChickenHead
    6:03 am on January 24th, 2011 23


    I heard a similar story.

    The chaplain was walking around to various business and giving a sermon based on Job 40:4…

    "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth."

    Without knowing exactly what the business was, he walked in and boldly stated he was there "for the Message that ends with the hand of Job".

    They didn't speak English so good… and… well…

  • setnaffa
    7:27 am on January 24th, 2011 24

    BTW, I went to Korea after 40 (also overweight) and was blessed to meet a wife there without needing to pay for “services”.

    One can find the thing one seeks. One just needs to be looking in the right direction. And it helps to have a proper attitude…

  • Jeff Fisher
    9:58 am on January 24th, 2011 25

    ChickenHead#21: Are you implying that Korean Hookers would not be someone

    to consider for marrying? If so I strongly disagree. A dopey GI will probably most marry a woman that is a dopey hooker that does not have values of a sensible and more discriminating hooker. They likely will not end up staying married. Most of my friends are married to Koreans. The how and where they met their wives is never brought up however if they were in the 2nd ID, it is likely they met in a club. These guys and their wives have long time successful marriages with kids and some with grandchildren. If you were in the Yongsan area and went into the Friendship Arcade (next to the library) and used the service at the watch repair and engraving counter between 75 and 81' you dealt with my wife. 81' we met, married. She then was a cashier at the commissary. I bring this up to point out that I did not marry a gal from clubs BUT–I was in the 2nd ID 4 times prior to meeting her and "Yobo'd"some ladies that I would have married if I was ready to make that leap. I waited until I was older and ready to settle down. I am of course smart and handsome. I did not waste my time with the "crouch grabbing under the table" type club queen. There were plenty that had an air of dignity, self respect, and were not retards.

  • Zilchy
    10:36 am on January 24th, 2011 26

    #24 Mr. Fisher

    Marrying any woman who has had a multitude of male sexual partners, increases the likely of her infidelity, thus increasing the chances of divorce. This idea is not carved in stone, but has been verified via statistics and biochemistry.

    This example of "the double standard" is one of absolute truth. It's a double standard that has been labeled "unfair" by females, but is absolutely true in it's discrimination.

  • Tom Langley
    12:55 pm on January 24th, 2011 27

    Chickenhead, Kushibo, Thanks for your kind words. Chickenhead it's kind of hard to compare NE Asian VS SE Asian women as everyone's personality is different. Korean women are more independent & if a guy was to f them over they would leave the relationship quicker. Cambodian women are more romantic, if you were to meet a good Cambodian woman & give her love & respect she would probably stay with you forever. Since the US has been in Korea for decades & our culture has had more time to diffuse there than in Cambodia. I think that has a lot to do with the greater independence shown by Korean women. Some Vietnamese women that I have known are a little bit more sexually 'liberated' that some other ethnicities. Of course if you married a hooker or a stripper of any nationality you liable to get f'ed. I hope I answered your question somewhat.

  • kushibo
    2:25 pm on January 24th, 2011 28

    Tom Langley wrote:

    I think that has a lot to do with the greater independence shown by Korean women.

    As a general rule I really don't like stereotyping any group (e.g., Americans, Koreans, men, women, gays, etc.) as tending to be a certain way or not, simply because there are so many exceptions to the rule that stereotypes tend to get in the way of properly understanding an individual as often as they're helpful in understanding a group.

    That said, I think this notion of independent Korean women is distorted a bit by the fact that women who tend to date or, especially, marry "foreign" men (and this includes kyopo men, too, especially if they don't speak much Korean) are more likely to be outliers in terms of personality.

    I do not mean that as an insult to those women, the men they date or marry, or the couples or the families they produce. Simply, a woman who is independent-minded beyond a certain point might find herself less likely to find a suitable mate among the KoKo population, is more likely to seek out a dating or marriage partner in venues with an international flare, and is more willingly to buck the trend and marry someone who (a) is considerably less likely to be able to communicate with her family, (b) is more likely to take her to another country to live, (c) is not part of the Korean rat race, etc.

    (And this is not to say there are few Korean men who want independent women; rather, dating channels in Korea are not well-equipped for independent-minded KoKo women to get matched up with the KoKo men who prefer or at least don't mind such women.)

    If, on the other hand, you are an international resident who ends up with a woman who accidentally ends up dating you (i.e., didn't specifically seek out a foreign guy to date or marry), then it can be an entirely different story. That's the point I'm trying to make. You may up with a woman who is far less independent-minded, or perhaps a woman who is willing to date you but ultimately does not have the cojones to buck what she sees as an insurmountable social proscription to marrying you or leave behind her family and friends to join you in another country.

    Like oldest sons or only sons who date non-Korean women only to find themselves unable to "go against" his parents by marrying the girl, such people might dip their toes in the relationship for years and years but never end up diving in when it really counts.

  • Tom
    2:27 pm on January 24th, 2011 29

    Such great ideals like Korean bathhouses will never work in the States because American's homophobia and insecurity towards homosexuality (despite the phony front that they are advanced in rights of homosexuals), plus the fact that many Americans are closet gays who are afraid that their primal natural instincts of attraction toward naked men would be exposed.

    Stick with your football and poker. Bathing is not one of the stronger suits of the Caucasion males.

  • Jeff Fisher
    2:36 pm on January 24th, 2011 30

    ZILCHY#25: You may be correct in the context of a woman in Western society.

    I think in an Asian society, Korean specifically, that is not the norm in

    a majority of the cases especially of the earlier generation where the

    opportunities for a decent life was very limited. Korea is very different

    in that regard now. In our country promiscuity is simply a lack of morals.

    Koreans have strict moral codes. They are programed to believe that their

    actions if immoral are a serious symbolic display of disrespect toward their family. I think if they end up as hookers it is done for a means to an end goal that they may not have otherwise or limited chances of reaching. In other words, they simply want a husband, a secure comfortable life, absent of hardship and live the American dream. Asians are VERY

    pragmatic, way beyond us. They do not marry for "love" as we do. They go

    down the list. 1. What is the family background, 2. What is his educ. 3.

    what does he do or have the potential to do to provide for a family, 4.His

    general character 5. Can we develop a caring and satisfying relationship-

    the love stuff. Today that is not the way a lot of them think as time

    goes on and they become more Westernized. Just my opinion. What do you

    think of my hypothesis? Make any sense to you? I value any opposing opinion. Thanks Zilchy.

  • kushibo
    2:42 pm on January 24th, 2011 31

    Jeff, I think what you wrote at the bottom of that comment is a very useful rule of thumb in Korea, even among many KoKo women who are a bit more Westernized.

  • kushibo
    2:50 pm on January 24th, 2011 32

    And now I'll bring things back to the jjimjilbang by mentioning that during my first time spending the night in a jjimjilbang, in 2004, at about 2 or 3 a.m., one couple in the corner of the large lounging area was having sex. As quietly as they could, since there were about a dozen or so other people sleeping in the same large room.

    From what I can discern, this was not a common experience. Or maybe that's the reason this made it to GI Korea's list of favorite things. ;)

  • Tom Langley
    3:57 pm on January 24th, 2011 33

    Tom #28 "Bathing is not one of the stronger suits of the Caucasian males." When I was in Korea running PT(physical training)in formation, if there were any Koreans in the formation the BO of sweat mixed with kimchi that they would excrete would almost kill you in your tracks. Any GI who has been stationed in Korea who ever ran PT with Koreans would tell you the same thing. This is not a question of hygiene, since Koreans eat kimchi with every meal when they perspire they smell like kimchi. Since I lived in the ville when I was in Korea & ate Korean food almost exclusively, well anyway one day my head nurse told me "Specialist Langley, you smell just like a Korean." She didn't mean it as a compliment but I replied "Thank You mam" & turned around a walked away.

  • ChickenHead
    3:30 am on January 25th, 2011 34


    "ChickenHead#21: Are you implying that Korean Hookers would not be someoneto consider for marrying? If so I strongly disagree."

    Hmmm… I think we are speaking of different times.

    A woman who turns to prostitution to survive might not make the worst wife is she is grateful to be out of the business and uses her desire to succeed to build a good life with her new family.

    I think there are some girls in the Philippines that fit this description. I know a few hunting girls who are kind and very honest… some of which now have successful marriages to Westerners living there.

    Korean girls no longer turn to prostitution for survival. They do it because they are natural predators, addicted to luxury goods, lazily dependent on easy money, or they are mentally ill. None of these traits are particularly good in a wife… in my most humble opinion.

    Korea in the 70s was closer to the Philippines today. Korea, now, is getting closer to the United States… just without the added pleasures of twitchy prostitutes with tasty drug addictions.

    I believe your thinking is correct for the time you spent in Korea… or partially correct… as if given a choice, I believe an "average" girl statistically makes a better wife than a prostitute any time.

  • Jeff Fisher
    5:25 am on January 25th, 2011 35

    CHICKENHEAD #32: I agree with your comment. You echoed pretty much what I said about there being differences from "then"(roughly about 20 yrs ago) and today. Your belief in a girl being from a traditional, normal environment is

    better to be sure. Being in the club scene has got to have a negative effect

    over time on their outlook on life. Quite hardened and downright cynical about life as a result of having to deal with being screwed over, abused, and disrespected, etc. Have the potential to be a real pain in the ass. Then

    on the flip side there are the positive outcomes from their experiences as

    you pointed out. I loved them all!! Wish I could do as that guy in the

    movie and go "Back to the Future".


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