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01/16/2017 Special > Special

Title

The Room Culture of Korea

PC, sauna, and singing rooms

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Contents
When foreigners visit Korea, one of the first differences they encounter is that Koreans like to gather together and entertain themselves visiting bangs, rooms that provide leisure activities. There are a variety of these ‘rooms’ in Korea, and the most popular rooms in Korea are PC rooms, singing rooms, and Korean spa rooms. These three popular types of rooms in Korea that guarantee enjoyment when visited alone or with friends.


PC room
 
Teenagers playing online games in a PC room. (Photo courtesy of https://goo.gl/Gs0ayN)

PC rooms are dark lighted big rooms that contain a lot of desks divided with small walls and chairs. On the desks are headphones and computers boasting high performance to serve convenience in playing online games, such as League of Legends and Overwatch. People either pay before or after they play. Most PC rooms’ users are male teenagers and university students. They like to come to PC rooms with their friends after school, since playing online games is one of the biggest hobbies in Korea. PC rooms in the past were considered unsanitary, and the main reason was because people were allowed to smoke. However, because today’s PC rooms’ users are not allowed to smoke, the rooms are of much cleaner environment and even serve drinks and snacks such as ramyeon, tteokbokki, rice cakes served with spicy sauce, and fried rice.


Singing room
 
The interior of a singing room. (Photo courtesy of https://goo.gl/85A17p)

Although the idea of singing room, or karaoke, started in Japan, it is very popular in many Asian cultures, especially Korea. In each room, there are chairs or sofas, tambourines to add more excitement, microphones, speakers playing background music, and a special remote control that allows the singer to choose which song they are going to sing. The songs include pop music worldwide, animation and children’s songs, and even special effects such as clapping and whistling noises. Most importantly, there is a screen that resembles a TV that shows the lyrics of the song.

When a person finishes singing each song, the screen shows the score of how well he or she has done. Today, there is a new type of singing room called ‘coin singing rooms’ that allows people to pay for each number of songs they sing. The rooms are much smaller but cheaper, when compared with the costs of original singing rooms that depend upon the time they spend there. Sometimes, ‘service times’ are given in those singing rooms which allow people to enjoy a bonus time to sing more songs.   


Korean spa
 
In jjimjilbangs, there are many rooms which are heated to maintain hot temperature. (Photo courtesy of https://goo.gl/7F7ue6)

Korean spa, or jjimjilbang in Korea consists of a sauna and multiple rooms of hot temperature. The main reason why Koreans like to visit jjimjilbang is because of the belief that jjimjil, or sweating, lets out the harmful waste products in the body. In addition, the casual atmosphere that allows people to chat freely with snacks is another reason why jjimjilbang is so popular in Korea. There are different names for each room, such as amethyst room, red clay room, and salt room. The rooms are decorated and named after the elements that compose them. The temperature of the rooms varies as well. The most general and popular snacks in jjimjilbang are shikhye, a sweet flavored drink made of rice and hard-boiled eggs.
 
A sauna in a jjimjilbang. (https://goo.gl/Vkc85L)

Many elderly men and women enjoy jjimjilbang, but today as many of its facilities include fitness centers, computer rooms, free movie rooms, and a big TV set, men and women of all ages like to go to there as well. Sauna is used after people are finished with visiting each room and done with jjimjil. Also with different temperature, there are hot and cold water pools. Sometimes, there also exists hot steam shower as well. Supsokhanbang Land in Shinchon, Seoul, Heoshimcheong in Donrae-gu, Busan, Kyeongsangnam-do and Shimhanok Spa in Jeonju city, Jeollabuk-do are a few of the most popular jjimjilbangs in Korea.
 
There are certainly a lot of exciting activities outdoors, such as hiking and playing football. However, PC rooms, singing rooms, and Korean sauna rooms show that people can enjoy themselves indoors as well. In this freezing weather, a visit to one of these rooms will be a smart choice to have fun.



Jang Soo-hyun        luxkari@hanyang.ac.kr
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