The Restroom Cultural Park, in the city of Suwon, South Korea, is a massive complex dedicated to the humble toilet. The main exhibition hall itself is shaped like a large toilet bowl and the pathway leading up to it is adorned with bronze figures of humans in mid-squat. The facility was opened to public earlier this year and is the only one of its kind in the world. Other indoor exhibits include WC signs from around the world and toilet-themed art. What’s even more interesting than the toilet theme park is the story of its origin.
Apparently, the place was initially home to the former Mayor of Suwon, Sim Jae-duck. He died in 2009, but that has not stopped the South Koreans from still regarding him as their very own ‘Mr. Toilet’. This was partly due to the fact that he ran a successful campaign in the 1980s to dramatically improve South Korea’s old toilet system, and also because Mr. Sim was born in his grandmother’s loo. So inspired was he by his place of birth that he built his own house in the shape of a toilet. He, in turn, is said to be the main inspiration behind the theme park.
The toilet park may be a source of humor for many, but it is supposed to carry a serious message as well. Several of the exhibits are meant to raise awareness about the conditions of public toilets in the developing world. According to Lee Youn-Sook, one of the employees at the Restroom Cultural Park, “we just focus on eating every day. We sometimes overlook the importance of a toilet. But we already know, upon waking up in the morning where we should go to – the toilet. But people don’t want to talk about this. So, we just dedicated to the public a toilet culture – a toilet is not only a toilet for us but can be a cultural space, important for health, sanitation and water conservation. So we call this the toilet culture.” Mr. Sim himself believed that the toilet is a place for serious contemplation. He founded the World Toilet Association in 2007, and is said to have told delegates, “The toilet is not merely a place for excretion. It can save humankind from diseases. A place of relaxation and purging, the toilet is a place for introspection. The toilet is also a central living place that possesses culture.”