Accommodating toilet team flushed with success

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Accommodating toilet team flushed with success

Hundreds of thousands of people filling the downtown streets to watch Korea's World Cup games on jumbo, outdoor screens. Packed in tight, a sea of red T-shirts for as far as the eye could see, one question was on everybody's mind: Where's the nearest toilet?

The plentiful beer drinking only made the issue more pressing.

If someone wanted to buy food, drinks, or a "Be the Reds" shirt, there were no shortage of options. If someone needed to go to the bathroom, however, life got a lot more tricky.

Storeowners near the plaza raised their concerns about this issue to World Cup officials well ahead of time, saying their restrooms have been overrun by the public since the games began.

No fear, though ?the Toilet Standard Rising Team of the Seoul Metropolitan Government is on top of this issue.

This is the same department that organized the "Clean Toilet, Clean Seoul" campaign, investing some 5.5 billion won ($4.2 million) into the project since 1999. So far the department has stationed 144 temporary toilets throughout the Gwanghwamun and City Hall area -- nearly double that was available during the Korea-Portugal game. "That number excludes the bathrooms at subway stations and buildings that have restrooms open for public use," says Park Chul-hyul, an official at Seoul's Toilet Standard Rising Team.

Last Tuesday, however, one of the women's toilets at the City Hall Subway Station was out of order, and irritated Red Devils faced a long walk to the next available commode facility.

The Seoul Plaza Hotel has posted arrows throughout its hallways pointing the way to the temporary restrooms stationed by the city to reduce the traffic in their restrooms. "During the Korea-Portugal game, our bathrooms in the lobby were flooded with water," says Kim Woo-gyeong, the chief doorman at the Seoul Plaza Hotel. "The amount of trash we have gotten from our lobby bathrooms for the World Cup matches is about 15 times greater than average."

He adds that during the Korea-Poland game, when temporary toilets had yet to be installed near the plaza, the situation was even worse. Another Seoul Plaza employee says, "The hotel has collected an average of 30 bags every day since the game. But at the moment, we don't restrict people from coming into the hotel."

The problem now lies less in the number of stalls available, but more in the difficulty in locating them. In the past, citizens often griped that there were no clearly recognizable toilet signs leading the way to the restrooms, which would help to locate restrooms with greater ease.

Meanwhile, bathrooms near the plazas are being used for a variety of purposes. Young soccer fans often drop by the restrooms before staking out their territory on the streets in order to change clothes, while others jostle for a space around the mirrors to fix their face paintings.

by Park Soo-mee

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