Kindergarden children walk past an installation shaped like
Auguste Rodin's 'The thinker' sitting on a toilet at the
Toilet Culture Park in Suwon, about 45km south of Seoul.
Photo by Reuters
Rodin's Thinker is pondering even harder than usual as he
sits astride a toilet at what has been dubbed the world's first
theme park dedicated to the humble restroom - a monument to one
South Korean man's vision.
The park, located about an hour outside of Seoul in the city
of Suwon - otherwise known as the home of Samsung Electronics
- centres around a toilet-shaped museum building that was
once the home of Sim Jae-duck, founder and first president of
the World Toilet Association.
Legend has it that Sim, a former Suwon mayor who made his
fortune with a metal products business and was dubbed "Mr
Toilet," was born in his impoverished grandmother's outhouse.
"He is a man whose life literally began in a toilet and ended
at a commode-shaped house," said Lee Yeun-sook, manager of
planning at the "Mr Toilet Sim Jae-duck Foundation".
Sim, who died in 2009 at the age of 70, shot to fame in South
Korea when he provided loos for soccer fans when the country
hosted the 2002 World Cup.
The organisation he founded has as its mission spreading the
benefits of hygienic toilets around the world, joining the
like-minded World Toilet Organisation based in Singapore.
Before Mr.Toilet's house was donated to Suwon city, visitors
could book it for an overnight stay, but at the cost of
$50,000 a night - the charge to raise money for a toilet
building charity - there were no takers.
Other exhibits at the park include Korean traditional squat
toilets, European bedpans, and Marcel Duchamp's sculpture
"Fountain," a porcelain urinal.
Suwon has since dubbed itself the mecca of toilet culture and
has pushed to get toilets recognised as a central part of
everyday life. It has funded toilet building programmes in
developing countries such as the Philippines.
At home, toilet conditions have rapidly improved as South
Korean living standards shot from poverty to riches in a
"For our generation, a toilet was a very dirty and smelly
place where you never wanted to go," said Kim Gye-soon, a
52-year-old tourist at the theme park. "But now it is totally
Suwon will continue the life-work of one of its most famous
sons by constructing a toilet culture center in 2014 near the
current park, which has attracted about 40,000 visitors since
it opened in July.
Like many of the best things in life, the toilet museum is
"Going to the restroom is as vital as eating. In a sense,
nations and governments should work to make sure everyone has
an equal access to toilets and feels happiness in there,"