Roanne Jubee Lee North Hollywood High School 10th grad
As much as Korean culture is known for its food, kpop, and k-drama, the spa or the sauna also is very vital to the culture. It is a place people go to unwind and relax; but it is also a place where you learn the ways of Korean life, traditions, and values. The spa is undoubtedly embedded in the culture and has been a precious ritual for Koreans, including my family.
Koreans of all ages enjoy the sauna throughout the year. They find it very relaxing as they get their massages or facial treatments done, and most importantly, they indulge themselves in this very unique experience of sweating out in scorching hot rooms. Koreans go mostly to sweat out and relax in the hot tubs and steamed rooms. There are many kinds of rooms: salt rooms, steamed rooms, charcoal rooms, and clay rooms. Such rooms are believed to have health beneficials, as they also believe to detoxify their bodies by sweating out in them. As they sweat out in these rooms, Koreans share intimate experiences of connecting with each other’s roots and experience traditional practices.
Spas not only have steamed rooms but also have a communal area where you get to experience all social aspects of Korea. Friends and families can come together and spend quality time by reading books, talking, and eating. It is a space where you build relationships and connect with each other.
Another big integral part is Korean food. It is almost a must to eat roasted eggs with sikhye, a Korean sweet rice drink at the sauna. These special eggs that are boiled in the hot sauna rooms are what people come for. Then people go back into the rooms to sweat out again, and when they come out, they eat patbingsu, Korean shaved ice topped with red beans, fruits and condensed milk. Often than not, people come to saunas for food more than the hot rooms because it reflects the culture with culinary delights as you get to enjoy such with your friends and families.
Yes, other than just relaxing and socializing, the spas also offer a number of treatments that Korean people love to indulge in. There are body scrubs, facial treatments and even nail care services you can enjoy. However, these treatments are not just about self-care; it shows the importance of presenting oneself with cleanliness, which is a Korean way of showing respect to themselves and others.
The sauna can be easily ignored in Korean culture until you get to experience yourself. And you will easily learn how deeply ingrained it is in Korean culture as it reflects so many aspects of Korean life. It is a very unique place where Korean people can take care of themselves physically, as much as connect with their culture, and build relationships with their loved ones in such intimate ways. It holds a very special place for many families throughout generations. As a Korean myself, I have learned so many things: my culture, values, and the importance of presenting myself in respect to others. It is a place of comfort and a rich tapestry of my culture.
<Roanne Jubee Lee North Hollywood High School 10th grad