You haven’t been clean until you’ve been scrubbed within an inch of your life at a Korean bathhouse, or mogyoktang. Korea’s public bathing culture stretches back centuries (some records suggest that men and women bathed together nude in public baths during the Goryeo Dynasty). But Seoul’s first public mogyoktang as we know it opened in 1925, launching a golden era of tiled tub group bathing that flourished through the ‘70s, when the rise of apartments with private bathrooms slowed the trend. Ask any Korean in their fifties or sixties and they’ll have memories of family trips to the mogyoktang, of scrubbing backs and being scrubbed, of buckets of steaming water and old folks gossiping in the changing room. Going to mokgyoktang wasn’t just about the simple act of getting clean, it was a social outing and even a community center of sorts. For a sample of old Seoul mogyoktang, visit Wonsamtang, open (and virtually unchanged) since 1966. Not keen on public nudity? Get that mogyoktang-feel with your clothes on at On Ne Sais Jamais, a brightly lit café with seating arranged around an empty tiled bathing pool.
Wonsamtang: 123-12, Wonhyo-ro, Yongsan-gu. 02-717-7674. Entrance 5,500 won
On Ne Sais Jamais: 47, Itaewon-ro 54-gil, Yongsan-gu. 02-794-3446