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Jim jil bang - A simple, easy way to relax

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- One way millions of Koreans escape from the bitter cold temperatures across the peninsula is a visit to the local sauna or jim jil bang.

Contrary to what many Americans may have heard about the "bath houses" of old, a trip to a modern Korean jim jil bang is a family affair.

A typical jim jil bang consists of various sauna rooms, some dry and some full of steam, ranging in temperatures from room temperature to 90 degrees. There is almost always a "cold" room as well, where customers can recover from a rapid increase in body temperature.

The saunas scratch only the surface of what the typical jim jil bang has to offer. There are often computer rooms, sleeping rooms, game rooms, movie rooms, a restaurant and snack bar, "nora bang" or singing rooms, massage rooms and massage chairs.

Bookworms can also check out the latest comic books.

While some customers visit the jim jil bang strictly for medical reasons, many people look at a visit as a chance to get out of the house, chat with friends, watch a movie and eat a meal. Some adventurous souls are known to spend the entire night relaxing at the jim jil bang.

Most jim jil bangs are open 24 hours a day and cost only 5,000 or 6,000 won from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and slightly more during the evening. There is no time limit for a customer's stay.

The curative effects of the jim jil bang have long been documented by Korean medical specialist, according to Pak, Yong Hui, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs community relations specialist.

The sauna can speed up metabolisms, increase perspiration and ease muscle pain, Mr. Pak said.

Mr. Pak added experts advise against spending too much time in the sauna and recommend no more than 30 minutes at a time.

Following are other tips for enjoying a jim jil bang visit:
-- stay hydrated; drink plenty of water or juice
-- take short breaks between each sauna session
-- use body lotion when finished with sauna sessions

When first entering a jim jil bang, customers should remove their shoes and approach the customer service counter. After paying the entrance fee, you will be handed a "uniform" of pants and a short-sleeve T-shirt to wear during your stay.

You will also be given a key to your personal locker in the changing room. While you can make return visits to the changing room, it's advisable to take some money with you for snacks, meals and massage chairs.

For more information about this popular Korean tradition, call the 51st FW PA office at 784-4044.