Thursday, 1 March 2012

Mr Toilet

A tale of Mr Toilet who lived in a toilet house

 Korea is a remarkable country.  I love tiny cafes and restaurants, street markets and long lines of open markets with all kinds of vendors. Nice smiling people that would always stop and ask where are you from and how are you doing.

As you walk on by Korean streets full of advertising neons, K-pop music clinges to your ear and makes your day another happy one. There is this energy in the air.

And then you want to visit a toilet at times, after all we all do have to sometimes, right? I never was too much disturbed by variety of standards of Korean toilets, some of them however, were rather shocking.

There is an island on the way to Taen-gun located halfway a very long bridge, popular spot where crowds of people stop by. Probably it was in some Korean drama, because drama site is a tourism booster in that country. How surprised I was when I had seen a multiple chain of holes in the floor that had been toilets.

My smart Korean friend, Youna, who took me on that trip, said:
- But you see this is easier to maintain good sanitation. Thousands of people stop here and use it.
Hmmm indeed. But it also happens that a small tiny cafe made a toilet for it's guests in the closest gate staircase usually downstairs or between 1st and 2nd floor and that toilet is dark, rather uncleaned and defitnately had seen better times.

I cannot say I was bothered much. After all how a traveller can be bothered by anything? Beauty does not have to be always clean. It adds up to what I call unique charm of a place even if it is a doubtful charm of low class sanitation.

But apparently there was a dude that was disturbed by it all and he was 100 percent Korean. Sim jae-duck, was so pissed off with Korean toilet standards that he even founded a Korean Toilet Association.

More  than that. When he became a Mayor of Suwon, it was just before the FIFA Worldcup in 2002. Some games were held in the city not far from my alma mater, Ajou University. The Mayor thought to himself "Ok, so we have nice stadium that everyone is jealous for, nice coffee shops, awesome restaurants, goodlooking women, lots of shops, all fine. But we do not have many nice toilets."

It was then when he started his biggest quest for higher hygiene standards. He had a prostate cancer and felt weaker and weaker but still restlessly advocated for his cause. He founded World Toilet Association.

He was born in a restroom due to old belief it brings luck. Sim jae-duck built a toilet that reminds the world of those who are either not wise enough to have a clean one or not lucky enough to have one at all.

He donated his Toilet House to the City of Suwon :)

Wow, what a cool city I have been at.
Sim jae-duck died in January 2009 due to prostate cancer.


  1. You have to see how the public restrooms in the USA and Canada are. Some of them are so dirty and sometimes don't work well due to clogging. How about the public toilets in Italy? You might almost faint in Italy.

    Generally speaking, Korean public restrooms are way better than those of the USA, Canada, Italy. You can easily find the public restrooms within your walking distance range in Korea and you don't pay any money for use. It is a great advantage. In Europe you have to pay money for using the public toilets.

  2. I was underwhelmed by the restrooms along S.California freeways. Korean restrooms along the Korean express highways occupy the top-notch position definitely in the world, whereas the S.CA. restrooms are so backward that they can not be even compared with the Korean restrooms.

    Now the world has changed dramatically. The US or Europe is the model to the world any more. Naturally the sun is supposed to rise from the far east. And by nature's malfunction, the sun was rising from the west for last 2 centuries. You will see the sun is setting in the west following the Mother Nature.

    In many aspects, Korea has become the model to the world and it will continue. If you visit Europe after you spend a few years in Seoul, most likely you will experience a reverse cultural shock just as I experienced in the US since my last visit to Seoul.

    1. I made a mistake in writing.
      The correct one is as follows :
      The US or Europe is not the model to the world any more.

  3. It does not change the fact that contemporary standards are due to efforts and struggle. Korea may be used as an example for other Asian countries or for Italy or Spain. But I come from Poland that has gone through this in 1920's and later improved a lot just after transformation.

    Also because this man made efforts and considered an issue important himself, the more I think we cannot go into a myth that Korea has ancient traditions of clean toilets. No of the countries in the world has ancient traditions of it.

  4. Korea should be a good model for the US as far as the public restrooms, esp. the restrooms along the express highway (in the US, freeways) are concerned.

    As a matter of fact, the US could learn many things from Korea such as infra structures(international airport, public transport), high speed internet, kind customer service, government officer friendliness, efficient and rapid administration system, efficient and inexpensive universal health plan, safe city environment (all of Korea is safe, you can walk around safely at night in any place of Korea), technology-savvy culture.

  5. Well I cannot speak for USA much but I tend to agree because I heard this many times before, that infrastructure in USA is decades behind Korea.

  6. But as to technology, engineering, inventions, fast internet access Poland catches Korea head in head.

    Health care system is something impressive though.

  7. Aga, thanks for your comment about Poland.

    The Polish economy is in better shape than other European countries using Euro. As you know, most of EU countries are in dire situation economically. The pundits say that even the depressed US is quite better than EU countries.

    Why is the Polish economy in better shape than other EU countries?
    I would apply Paul Krugman kind of interpretation for it. The primary and most important factor is that Poland has its own free floating currency. So Poland is not bound by Euro. If Poland wants, it could depreciate its own currency value for exports.

    There are 2 other reasons in my opinion. The first is that Poland had the debt relief in 1992 and the other is that many Poles are working as migrant workers in other EU countries such as the UK, Germany, Ireland, so that they can remit huge amount of money to Poland. It is said that there are 1 million Poles working in the UK alone and the number is growing by 4~5 thousand every month. You can expect similar figure to Germany.

    Many EU countries are desperately trying to escape from this severe depression by exports. Unfortunately, however, most of EU countries' manufacturing sectors lost their foundations and if any, they don't have competitive edge. What's worse, they are using the common currency Euro, which Poland is free of.

    Now I want to compare France and the UK ( the second and third biggest manufacturing and exporting countries in Europe) with Korea. Then you can clearly understand the serious problem of Europe and Poland.

    France exported $578 billion of products 2011
    The UK exported $495 billion of products 2011
    Korea exported $558 billion of products 2011

    About 50 billion of French exports are agricultural products, which means that Korea exported more industrial products than each of France and the UK. You have to keep in mind that population-wise Korea(48.5 million) is smaller than each of France(65.3 million) and the UK(62.2 million).

    Poland can develop furthermore and expand its economy only by way of the export-oriented manufacturing-based economy. Last year Poland exported $197 billion of products. Poland is in better shape, compared with other EU countries and yet Poland has a long way to go in order to have a strong manufacturing base.

    Last year just 4 hundred Koreans emigrated to other countries, whereas more than 4 thousand Koreans mostly from the US and Canada returned to their homeland as reverse-immigrants. And 1.5 million foreigners are living and working in Korea thanks to booming economy.


Welcome to my blog :) If you like, please comment. Keep in mind that if the comment may hurt anyone, including me, I will, by common sense, delete it :) Enjoy :)