At South Korea’s Toilet Museum – Mr. Toilet House, poop isn’t just a topic for schoolyard jokes – it’s serious business.
Haewoojae (Mr. Toilet House) is a curious reminder of the different cultural norms around the world. Talking about poop in South Korea is far from taboo, in fact faeces is considered to be lucky. Koreans believe that to dream of poop means you will have great riches in your life.
There is even a popular poop-themed café in the country’s capital, Seoul.
To celebrate the inauguration of the World Toilet Association in 2007, one of its co-founders – Sim Jae-duck, aka Mr. Toilet – chose to demolish his house and invest $1.6 million in the construction of a new, toilet-shaped, home in its place.
Credited as the largest toilet sculpture by the Korea Record Institute, today the building houses a museum and toilet culture exhibition hall.
The museum encourages visitors to “enjoy interesting contents related to toilets”. And they really aren’t joking.
It is clear that Haewoojae takes a light-hearted approach to its subject matter, from the outdoor sculptures of people pooping to the kids slide into a huge toilet bowl.
The children’s poo activity room is weirdly fun and has plenty of scatological information to keep the kids entertained, such as why we fart and how different kinds of toilet work.
If you ever wanted to know how to assess your poop, what foods affect your GI health, or about the waste of different animals, the answers can be found here.
You might well be wondering if this museum has a mascot. Of course it does, and of course it is a cute winged golden poop named Toile!
Sooner or later, we all have relieve ourselves. In Mr. Toilet House it’s really easy to find a rest room because there’s one right in the middle of the first-floor hall.
The toilet pod is listed as an exhibit on the visitor map and highlights that bodily functions are something to be celebrated in this place.
For those who prefer to be more modest about their personal habits, there are four other rest rooms in less obtrusive locations. Visitors have plenty of opportunity to explore world toilet history.
The museum showcases an astonishing variety of unique and interesting toilets from history and the modern world, as well as an in-depth display of what people use to wipe themselves.
Exhibitions on sanitation development projects and the life of Sim Jae-duck explain the serious side to the creation of Mr. Toilet House.
Good sanitation is something we take for granted when we have it, however many people around the world do not have access to adequate bathroom facilities.
Sim Jae-duck was mayor of Suwon City in South Korea from 1995 to 1998. When Seoul was selected to host the 1998 Summer Olympics, Suwon was chosen as the handball events venue.
While work began on building an Olympic sports arena, Sim spotted another facility that was lacking in his city: public toilets.
He didn’t stop at improving his own city. Sim became a pioneer of the toilet culture movement, determined to raise awareness and funding for those who live without a hygienic place to go.
After his tenure as mayor ended, Mr. Toilet founded the Korean Toilet Association and co-founded the World Toilet Association.
According to their website, the WTA “is an international organization dedicated to protecting lives through the improvement of sanitation via toilets”.
Understanding Sim’s mission does make Haewoojae (slightly) less surreal and there certainly are photo opportunities like nowhere else.
However there things that you can never unlearn – like discovering that the local delicacy on Jeju Island is pork from poop-eating pigs.