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Lesson Transcript

Seol: 안녕하세요. 윤설입니다.
Minkyeong: 안녕하세요. 민경입니다.
Keith: Keith here. Korean Culture Class Number 17, The Bathhouse.
Minkyeong: My home.
Keith: Well, actually, we’re thinking about this lesson, I think about doing it, but once Minkyeong came on board, like this is the job for you. And why is that?
Minkyeong: Because my family owns this public bathhouse, since my grandmother’s time, so I feel very comfortable talking about this.
Keith: Yes. It’s a family business.
Minkyeong: Yes.
Keith: And well, not even just a family business, it’s a Korean cultural mainstay, whatever you want to call it. It’s a huge part of Korean culture, and Minkyeong’s family is contributing.
Minkyeong: Mhm.

Lesson focus

Seol: Yes, personally, I love to go to 찜질방 and 목욕탕. So I went there every Sunday.
Keith: Well, before get into your whole love for the bathhouse, what is “bathhouse” in Korean?
Seol: 목욕탕 [slowly - broken down by syllable] 목욕탕 [natural native speed]
Keith: Now, what’s that other place that you mentioned?
Seol: 찜질방 [slowly - broken down by syllable] 찜질방 [natural native speed]
Keith: And this is kind of a bathhouse, but not really. It’s a sauna, but not really, too.
Minkyeong: Yes. It’s like a big sauna.
Seol: So it’s a big, hot place, that you can sweat. So Korean people believe that if you sweat, the bad things just come out from your skin and you can be healthier by sweating. So this is a place for sweating.
Keith: Ok. Well, that’s so basically 찜질방 is a sauna, but it’s on a very large scale. Sauna’s usually… When I think of sauna, I think, you know, it’s a very small room, maybe about like ten people can fit in there, maximum. But 찜질방, 몇 명 들어갈 수 있어요? How many people can go in?
Seol: The biggest one that I’ve experienced was about like 500 people can come.
Keith: Wow. That’s huge.
Seol: That was really big.
Keith: Well, I think the best way to approach this lesson is to separate 찜질방 and 목욕탕, because I think they’re two different cultures kind of.
Seol: Yes. You’re right.
Keith: So which one do you want to start with?
Minkyeong: 목욕탕이요.
Keith: Because that’s your area of expertise?
Minkyeong: Yes, yes. That’s my specialty so…
Keith: All right. So Ms.목욕탕, can you please explain? 기분이 안 좋아요? Do you not feel so…
Minkyeong: No, no. I’m ok.
Keith: Ok. Ms. 목욕탕, can you explain what it is? What is it?
Minkyeong: 목욕탕 is a public bathhouse so it’s separated into two sections, 여탕 and 남탕.
Keith: Actually, of course. Women and men, what’s that called? What’s the women’s bath?
Minkyeong: 여탕.
Keith: And the men’s bath?
Minkyeong: 남탕. And then, if you go into 여탕 or 남탕, there’s usually two tubs which is 냉탕 and 온탕. Many 탕s.
Keith: Ok. So yes, there are a lot of 탕s in all of your sentences. So what does that 탕 mean?
Minkyeong: It means “tub.”
Keith: Yes, like a bathtub, men’s tub, women’s tub and… where you take a bath. Ok, so we have a women’s bath.
Minkyeong: 여탕
Keith: A men’s bath
Minkyeong: 남탕
Keith: And within those two, there are two other baths. There’s the hot bath.
Minkyeong: 온탕
Keith: And the cold bath
Minkyeong: 냉탕. So before you go into 온탕, you have to take a shower.
Keith: And that’s because you’re sharing that 탕 water with everybody. And you don’t want to dirty it up. So you take a shower, you shampoo your hair, you…
Minkyeong: Yes. And then, after you know you stay in 온탕 for a while, and then you’re dirt, I mean like the bath, 때가 분다를 영어로 뭐라고 그래요, 언니?
Seol: Well, I don’t know, but ok, let me explain then. You know, after being in 온탕, your dead skin cells, I mean the dirt, 때, will be ready to be exfoliated. So… and then, if you scrub it off, you’ll see your dead skin cells by your eyes.
Keith: That sounds really disgusting, actually.
Minkyeong: It is. But before, you have to put on 이태리 타올.
Seol: Ok, that’s a key point. You…
Keith: Ok. What’s that word?
Minkyeong: 이태리 타올.
Keith: Italian towel? What’s Italian towels? What do they have to do with anything?
Seol: That’s kind of a special towel for exfoliating your dead skin cells.
Keith: Well, I don’t think “exfoliating” is the correct word.
Seol: Ok. Scrub. Let’s say “to scrub.”
Keith: Yes. I think 때를 밀다, literally, that’s “pushing,” right?
Seol: Mhm.
Keith: But I think it’s more like scrubbing really, really hard.
Minkyeong: It is. After scrubbing yourself, like…
Keith: Really hard.
Seol: Yes, really hard. You’ll see your skin red.
Minkyeong: You’ll see your filth.
Keith: You’ll see your filth, that’s terrific. Ok, wait. So let’s do a quick recap. You take a shower, you jump into the 온탕 – “the hot tub”, and you’re ready for?
Minkyeong: 때를 밀다.
Keith: To scrub your skin really hard until all that dead skin comes out. Probably, a bad translation, but… I mean, that’s what it is. Ok. That’s where we are at now.
Minkyeong: And if you don’t want to do it by yourself, you can pay someone else to do it.
Seol: That’s more disgusting.
Keith: But actually, that’s part of Korean culture, too.
Seol: Because I feel ashamed, like, you know, this is my dirt. I don’t want to show this to other people. Don’t you feel that?
Minkyeong: But it takes so much energy to, you know, 때를 밀다.
Seol: But while I’m doing that, I feel like: “Ok, I’m becoming cleaner and cleaner.” That’s what I feel.
Keith: Ok.
Minkyeong: But how are you going to do your back? You can’t do your…
Keith: Well, you might need 정 for that.
Minkyeong: Yes. It’s like…
Keith: You need somebody else to do it for you.
Minkyeong: If you don’t do it, everywhere else is clean, but your back’s not going to be clean.
Keith: All right. So you push real hard, you scrub real hard, all that dirt comes out. I’m having a hard time talking about this. 좀…
Seol: 어려워요.
Keith: Yes, it’s a little difficult to talk about it publicly. But it’s big part of Korean culture, So we’re doing it. So after that, what do you do?
Minkyeong: We go into a sauna.
Keith: A sauna. Very simple.
Minkyeong: Yes, it’s 사우나. It’s international, I think it’s same as anywhere else.
Keith: Ok.
Minkyeong: But we have 냉탕.
Keith: The cold water bath.
Minkyeong: Yes. So after sauna, you could just pour cold water on yourself or you could just go into the tub itself. And you know, cool yourself down.
Keith: So the reason that you’re pouring cold water on yourself is to cool yourself down from the sauna and the 온탕, the hot tub.
Minkyeong: Yes.
Keith: So from the start, hot, hot, hot, hot, and then, lastly, cool yourself off.
Minkyeong: Yes.
Keith: Ok. So we got through the whole process of doing that. Now, let’s go into the cultural aspect of it real quick. Why is this such a big part of Korean culture? Sol, you said you go every Sunday.
Seol: Yes, I do.
Keith: With whom?
Seol: With my mom and my sisters.
Keith: Sometimes your aunts…
Seol: Yes, sure.
Keith: Sometimes your grandma…
Seol: Yes. And I have them scrubbing their backs. Yes. And it’s like kind of, you know, we’re naked, we’re talking very frankly, and like, we’re building up our relationship or like, attachment. So I love going there. It’s kind of family rituals.
Minkyeong: Yes. You don’t really go with, like, your friends or, you know, somebody you don’t really know. You go with, like, your family or you know, very, very, very close friend maybe.
Keith: Because you’re showing them everything.
Minkyeong: Yes, you know…
Keith: Your dirt…
Seol: You’re right.
Keith: So they have to be really close to you. So it’s a big part of Korean community, like, the very core of your inner circle. Your family and your best, best friend. You go there and a lot of people, you know, they just hang out there. They talk…
Minkyeong: Yes, and the best part is that there’s a little like snack corner 매점. And the best far from me was drinking 야쿠르트.
Keith: Like a yogurt type juice. Ok. So yes, I mean, you go there for the social aspect of it. You don’t actually… I mean you go there to, you know, take off all that dirty stuff. But I mean, a big part of it, maybe like 50% of it, is going there to hang out.
Minkyeong: Yes. So like, when I was young, I didn’t want to, you know, go to 목욕탕 because when you do 때밀이, it hurts, so I’m just like“No, I don’t want to go.” and my mom always say “I’ll buy you 야쿠르트, let’s go.” and I say “Yes, let’s go.”
Keith: So easily convinced.
Seol: You’re so simple.
Keith: All right. So before we move on to 찜질방, 목욕탕 if you want to get closer with somebody, do you bring them along to 목욕탕?
Minkyeong: Not a good idea.
Seol: I do not, but I heard men do that.
Keith: Actually, I don’t go to 목욕탕 because, I don’t know, I grew up in America. I have a problem getting naked in front of everybody. But from what I hear, the Korean men, like, if you have a future son-in-law, you’re going to take him to the 목욕탕 because you have to talk to him and you have to see… You have to go there And you know, it’s a very intimate experience.
Seol: Right. It is.
Keith: So in some ways you get closer in that sense, but for some reason, women don’t do that.
Seol: No.
Minkyeong: No.
Keith: Yes. It’s a thing for men. All right. So let’s move on to 찜질방. Now, as we mentioned at the beginning of this lesson, it’s like a sauna, a huge sauna, a very big sauna. Can you walk us through what you do?
Minkyeong: So you go to the front and you pay for the fee and they give you clothes to wear inside the 찜질방, and you go to just like 목욕탕, 여탕 and 남탕.
Keith: The men’s and the women’s.
Minkyeong: And you change to those clothes, and then, you go to wear your 찜질.
Keith: And what is that, exactly?
Minkyeong: To sweat wearing those clothes.
Keith: So it’s not as intimate as 목욕탕 because you’re not actually naked, But you have these clothes that are given to you, But you’re sweating.
Seol: Yes. And the main place, the 찜질방 is not separated by genders, so we… Everybody shares the same room. So like in a... You go there with your friends and family and you talk there, sweat, and watch TV, eat something, very delicious, and sometimes you can deliver things like ask delivery food, too. Like, it’s a place for, like, communicating and having fun.
Minkyeong: Yes, it’s like a place to rest for, like, a whole day.
Keith: Actually, it’s also a very good place to sleep. It’s cheap.
Seol: Right. It’s about 6,000 won, as far as I know.
Keith: And actually, one of our listeners, he posted about going somewhere in Korea, but he didn’t want to go to a hotel, So he stayed at a 찜질방. And that was one of our listeners, Austin, But yes, a lot of people just go there to sleep. So maybe if they missed their bus, missed their train, they don’t want to take a taxi home, just sleep at the 찜질방.
Seol: It’s possible.
Minkyeong: Yes, there are some big 찜질방s, they even have, like, a room to sleep, and like, there’s like 노래방, and…
Seol: 컴퓨터방, PC방.
Minkyeong: And also like a restaurant that you can actually, you know, eat food.
Keith: So let’s go back into the whole social aspect of it because it’s not so intimate. So who are you going there with?
Seol: I go there with my friends and of course, with my family, too.
Minkyeong: Some people date there, too, you know?
Seol: Yes, I did. I had an experience dating there. I went there…
Keith: You went on a date to 찜질방?
Seol: Kind of because you know, that’s a place that we can take rest and like, you know, you can watch TV, videos, and you can use the Internet and sometimes you can sing a song, 노래방. So it’s a place for entertainment.
Minkyeong: And there’s 목욕탕 inside the 찜질방, so it’s…
Keith: So pretty much… If you want to get a taste of Korea and just maybe, a little bit of everything, that’s a perfect place to go.
Seol: Sure.
Minkyeong: Yes.
Keith: Yes. I think 찜질방 epitomizes Korean culture because it has everything. It’s a communal place, a place for entertainment, but also 목욕탕 epitomizes the Korean family, I think. You go there, you share everything, you do everything, you help each other out, you take off that person’s dirt. I mean, yes, it’s very intimate Korean families.
Seol: Yes, it is.


Keith: So I think we’re going to have to end the lesson over here, but if any of our listeners have any experience at 찜질방, at 목욕탕, let us know. Stop by, leave us a post, and we’re waiting to hear from you. Ok. We’ll see you next time.
Seol: 다음 시간에 봐요.
Minkyeong: 안녕히 계세요.