[REPORTER'S DIARY]When nature calls

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[REPORTER'S DIARY]When nature calls

The Loire Valley, which lies about 120 kilometer southwest of Paris, boasts a number of magnificent castles. Among the most beautiful is Chambord, which is open to tourists.

Built in 1519 by Francois I, and once home for the royalty of France, Chambord, uninhabited today, consists of apartments. Similar to the modern concept of apartments, a single Chambord flat has one or two bedrooms, a large hall, study, library and drawing room. The halls and bedrooms feature high ceilings, compared with lower ceilings of auxiliary rooms.

There are six apartments on each of the castle's three floors. What's strange about this quiet, enchanting castle and its luxury apartments is that there are no bathrooms. Toilets are a fairly modern concept, particularly contemporary flush toilets. It is odd, though not difficult, to imagine kings, queens and nobles of that period gracefully walking out this castle's doors in heavy clothing and relieving themselves in gardens or forests.

In Korea, the toilet first appeared during the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. to A.D. 935). A stone structure that is believed to be a toilet was found in Gyeongju, the capital city of the Silla Dynasty.

During the Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910), kings used yogang, or jars, and a portable toilet called a maeuteul was made of wood and contained a removable brass or porcelain bowl. The yogang was widely used by ordinary people in Joseon times and is still used by many senior citizens. In a farmhouse, a Joseon restroom was often located in a deep hole in the corner of a yard.

Koreans seemed to be ahead of Westerners in terms of restroom traditions, at least until flush toilets became common in 19th century Europe. The flush toilet first appeared in Korea in the early 20th century and the Western toilet later began to be used in major hotels, buildings, schools and households.

Koreans were not only behind in using modern toilets but also in keeping restrooms clean. Even today when traveling in Europe Koreans frequently praise the neatness of restrooms.

Monumental buildings like the Independence Hall in Cheonan or skyscrapers like the 63 building, once the tallest building in Asia, may impress foreign visitors, but dirty and run-down restrooms are surely going to ruin visitors' holidays and, above all, perceptions of our country. Tourists do not just come to see old palaces and museums, but to spend time walking around Korea's streets and absorbing the atmosphere.

Korea held several international sporting events this past year and attempted to lure tourists by spending billions of won in promotions, along with improving conditions of numerous restrooms in the country. But our cities still have numerous unsanitary and battered restrooms.

It is time for the government to encourage property owners and businesses to renovate their restrooms and to raise awareness of the importance of clean restrooms.

The writer is a staff writer of the JoongAng Daily.

by Limb Jae-un

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