Theme park in Suwon puts emphasis on culture and public health, even though the topic might make some squeamish.
From its bowl-shaped exhibition hall to the bronze figures – immortalised in mid-squat – outside, everything about this theme park in South Korea points towards the smallest room in the house.
Officially opened earlier this year, the facility in the city of Suwon is reputed to be the first in the world devoted to what happens when we answer the call of nature.
Quirkier exhibits include WC signs from around the world and toilet-themed works of art, while visitors can remind themselves of their day perusing poop with appropriately shaped souvenirs.
The museum was previously the home of Sim Jae-duck, the former mayor of Suwon and the inspiration for the facility, where visitors are invited to use his original toilet, complete with a full-length glass door that clouds up when it’s occupied.
South Koreans regard Sim, who died in 2009, and not Thomas Crapper, as the real Mr Toilet.
And for good reason: Sim was reportedly born in his grandmother’s loo, and turned his obsession with toilets into a successful campaign in the 1980s to dramatically improve South Korea’s public conveniences.
While they may not match the British obsession with scatological humour, the park’s popularity suggests that Koreans are less embarrassed when it comes to celebrating the toilet and its central role in daily life.
The facility has a serious message, too: several exhibits are intended to raise awareness of public toilets and sanitation in the developing world.
Sim probably spoke for many when he said the toilet was also a place for serious contemplation.
“The toilet is not merely a place for excretion. It can save humankind from diseases,” he reportedly told delegates at a meeting of the World Toilet Association, which he founded in 2007.
“A place of relaxation and purging, the toilet is a place for introspection. The toilet is also a central living place that possesses culture.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010