Thursday, February 25, 2010

Korean Bathrooms: A Photo Diary

Here's the question:
My name is Bernal and I am 28 years old. I developed IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) a few years back. Thanks to that I feel uncomfortable at places without bathrooms. So every time I go to a place the first thing I do is try to find the nearest bathroom, and when I located it, I feel better.  I will go to Korea in June for a while. I was wondering if you can tell me how often you can find a bathroom in Seoul, and if is true that since the world cup, is some type of law in which allows any foreigner to use any public bathroom, even buildings and stuff.

I'm from Guatemala and here you dont find public washrooms.. only restaurants and stuff like that.
That sounds pretty awful, Bernal. There's nothing better than a spastic colon on a hot June day here in Seoul. 

Determining bathroom locations is also a pastime of mine, but not because I have to poop a lot. My concern --while drinking usually-- is that I'll only have to go to the bathroom if I don't have the luxury of a bathroom. I think I developed this problem in college on backpacking trips. Before we started packing, I would try to force myself to poop so I wouldn't have to poop on the trail. I was fine dropping one at the campsite, but the hike-poop was always rushed and uncomfortable. 

Bathrooms in Seoul are actually quite common. Depending on where you are in the city, you should be able to find some sort of public restroom within a minutes' walk. Some will be clearly marked with directions and others will be more allusive. The trickiest ones to spot are the ones that hide in the three or four-story "villas". There's usually a sign on or in the building somewhere that says "화장실". If not, just ask someone and they'll point in the right direction. Honestly, I've never had a problem. Even at the park, there are toilets all around.

Some Photo Warnings...

 They don't care if you're there or not.


They're not all like this one, but...

 ...they're not like this, either.

This is pretty common... 

 ...but this is the norm. 

Confused? Don't be.

Just drop it in that trashcan.

Get used to it... 
...but there probably won't be any soap, anyways.

Don't kid yourself. There will be plenty of smoking.

Just not much toilet paper. 

 Accept it.


The Expat said...


Swing by Foreign/er. The link is on the sidebar. She might have some more info for you.

조안나 said...

All subways have decent enough bathrooms. That's always the best if you're in a pinch...

Logan Row said...

In Europe you pay to use the bathroom. In New York you’re obliged to buy something for the privilege. In New Orleans you find a parked car and risk going to prison for the night. Korea has them all beat! Just remember, the bathrooms in Seoul may reek of stale urine; you may have to squat on the floor and let your coat tails dip into the bowl; you’ll likely have to smell the shit coming off the used toilet paper in the trashcan next to you. But, and this is the damn point, you’ll NEVER go without.
Happy sh*ting, folks!!

Brian said...

It's a good idea to know where the nearest E-Mart is. Their bathrooms are always top notch.

kushibo said...

I tell visitors to Korea to look for hotels. Almost always quite clean. And I concur on E-Mart, LotteMart, and those other stores. Seoul Station, too. Actually, except for LPG gas stations, most of the bathrooms I run into.

One thing I don't like about Hawaii and the Mainland is the locked bathrooms, to keep out homeless and because the place is too busy to be bothered to keep their own bathrooms clean. Especially when traveling with small children, I hate having to ask for a key to the toilet.

And a lot of places, in Hawaii more than in OC, have bathrooms that are really just not well maintained. Trash on the floor, unflushed toilets no one wants to touch. Disgusting.

And I'll give credit to McDonald's across America for having reasonably clean and highly accessible toilets: Even if you don't buy anything, you know you can go in and use their facilities and they don't care.

Irreverent Italy said...

Great post!
Two things:

1. You might get a kick out of the 'Italian style' of bathrooms (called Turkish toilets) that I posted on my blog :

But, more importantly, Irritable Bowel Syndrome is what they call it when they don't know what else it is. I suffered my entire life, until I discovered I was allergic to nearly everything I put in my mouth.
Now, I am so healthy -- I don't even get colds in the winter -- by just avoiding the foods that used to make me sick.
Get a (real) food intolerance test (blood test - American and not at a local herbal shop) and, then stay off what it is! For me, it was glutens (all grains but corn). You'll never have to drive the porcelain bus again!!!

Francesca Maggi - Burnt by the Tuscan Sun

Tim said...

Seriously! Sooooo funny! I mean, everything here I've seen at one point or another...INCLUDING the intrusive adjumma cleaning lady! uncomfortable....

Jessie said...

In-room Internet access is another popular hotel amenity.

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Anandengineers said...

Especially when traveling with small children, I hate having to ask for a key to the toilet.
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