Korean Toilet Story

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October 30th 2006
Published: November 3rd 2006
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Korean ToiletKorean ToiletKorean Toilet

Seems fairly standard with the exception of the Control Panel on the side.
Alright, so Korea is apparently very technologically advanced. I knew this coming here and expected plenty of Internet access, fancy cell phones, and pretty nice computers. Well, what I didn't expect was such an electronic apartment.

First off, I don't have a key to my apartment. There is a key, the type that you stick in a door-knob turn and unlock things. But the guy that let me in, Sonnie (a manager of my school) kept that key. Okay, so they must have one of those electronic keys like at nice hotels where they program a card and you slide it in your door? That would make sense - Korea is a step ahead of the game and installed that type of electronic key system not just in hotels, but in apartments now. Nope, not even that. I simply have a number code. I press a Korean symbol on my door that's located where the # key should be, type in my code, and then press # again and my door unlocks. Well that's kind of cool. But then the door says something to me in Korean. I don't understand a lick of Korean so I just figured the door
Toilet Control PanelToilet Control PanelToilet Control Panel

You tell ME what the buttons mean...
was saying something like "Welcome Home Shawn." That makes sense, right? Well, after asking my Korean friend, she told me that my door is simply saying "Open". Well every time I hear my door's voice (which is female) I imagine she's saying "Welcome Home Shawn." She says something different when I leave as well. I imagine "Have fun while you're gone, I'll take care of things here! Holler!" But, really I'm pretty sure she's just saying "locked".

So then I walk into my apartment and boom the light comes on. I didn't touch a thing - this must be one of those "smart homes" where you just walk around and lights turn on and off as you go. So I spread my arms and dance into my apartment expecting the lights behind me to automatically turn off and those in front turn on. Maybe a radio will kick on when I get close. I'm gleefully prancing into my new Korean apartment like Gene Kelly in "Singin' In the Rain". Well, I'm prancing in the dark, flailing my arms like an idiot. Apparently only the front hall light has a sensor. None-the-less , you don't see that in every home in America. (I say "front hall" as if it's the vestibule of my 12 room mansion. Really it's just the first step away from my bathroom/kitchen/laundry room/bedroom/living room studio apartment on the 17th floor of a high rise. I've slept in bigger hotel rooms. No seriously.)

I think to myself, "Korea really is more technologically advanced and I'm excited to see what else they have going on." Well I have to look no further than my next step into my bathroom. I see the toilet and on the side is an electronic control panel. Holy crap! An electronic toilet. That's awesome! But there's 13 buttons on the panel! (**please refer to attached picture) Even if there are two for each function (one button for up and one for down) that still leaves 6 things to control on the toilet. I can only think of one thing I need to control on a toilet and that should only take one button - "Flush". Well whatever, I'm sure I'll figure it out as I sit down to relieve myself after that 12 hour flight where I didn't dare stink up the airplane cabin.

Alright, time to flush. Well how about the obvious button standing alone? Beep.


Ok, well maybe I just turned it on, now I need to tell it to "flow water" - how about the wavy button**? Beep.


Ok, well maybe I need to tell it whether I did a number one or a number two. There's a pink button with a girl on it and a blue one with what looks like a butt on it**. Clearly number one is a feminine thing so it's pink with a girl and number two is more masculine, so it's blue and has a picture of an ass on it! Cool. So I'll press the blue one. Beep.


Ok, well I must've just set it. I probably just let it know what it needs to wash down. I'll try the main button again. Beep.


Damn. Well there's a green button with an arrow pointing up and down**. Maybe I want to tell it to make the water go down? Beep.


She- bal! (Korean for sh*t). How do I get this blasted toilet to flush!? Alright, there's eight buttons left**. One of them has to do the trick. Beep, beep, beep, beep. Nothing. How about a combination? Beep, boop. Nope. Beep, beep, boop. Nope. What the crap? I mean, if I was my mom, I can see not having a clue what was going on. But I'm fairly savvy when it comes to technology. There's certain combinations and tricks that are standard among machines with buttons - VCRs, DVD players, car radios... toilets! This can't be some amazing trick. I'm sure Koreans go to the bathroom at least somewhat often enough to where it would make sense to have the ability to flush the toilet be convenient! I know Korean kids seem smarter than American kids, but that's because they study more. Do they start all the way with potty-training?! Make the kid memorize some elaborate code to flush the toilet? Get his brain working hard early? What is this? Am I really going to have to ask Sonnie, my Korean manager who is waiting downstairs for me, how to flush the freaking toilet? Man, if I did a number one it would be cool, but I got number 2 hanging out in there. This is not going to be a friendly way to thank him for being so helpful! Oh well, I guess I don't have any other choice. I'll at least close the-- ... oh... oh man... they're going to love this story back home... there's the handle on the side of the toilet exactly where every handle on every toilet is... I was so intrigued by the electronic control panel of the...?.... bidet!!.... that I forgot to even look any further.

Yeah, so I was able to flush the toilet, there's no trick to it - just press down on the handle. And apparently I have an electronic bidet built in to my toilet. I'll leave figuring that out for another day.

Hope all is well with you all.


9th November 2006

Man, thanks a loooot :)
Just want to tell ur blog made my day..it was one of those boring, crowded day at the office when u have tons of reporst to do and u find ur self restless..and not so young:).. Reading ur blog i started laughing and laughing like a nut..tears in my eyes and colleagues wondering what happend..reports definetly cant be so fun... so in the middle of ur story i had to go lock my self in the bathroom to laugh in piece... btw no electronic toilet here also.. so many thanks and enjoy ur staying in korea...
15th November 2006

Hey man. I just happened upon your blog. That toilet adventure is hilarious! Lol :-)
26th November 2006

Not only are you cute...you're hilarious too!!!
2nd May 2007

Funny stuff
Work on the boat was pretty soft today, so I took the chance and carried myself to a cybercafé for one of those random travelblog reading sessions. I stumbled on this entry of yours about toilets in Korea and just found it hilarious. You've got a new subscriber, mate. Marco
29th May 2007

As if I didn't already want to go to Korea. Good stuff, I need to book my ticket.
31st December 2007

this is a great story. thanks for sharing. i laughed my ass off!!!
30th January 2008

great story!
great story- you write as if your standing here telling us the story. just hilarious. im going to s. korea in 2 months and get a kick out of reading everyones blogs on here! fun times ahead i see.
3rd March 2008

half way through your story, I asked myself.... isn't all electronic toilet seat has a backup (typical flush handle) at the right (just in case no electricity)... I was expecting you ask the manager helps.... well it's sure one hell of a story (they're going to love this story back home)...hahaha. Nice one.
3rd June 2009

Thanks for the help
You know... I just had the same exact experience. I didn't even think to look on the side. Thanks for your blog.
5th July 2010

its too long..so i cnnt use it for my project...too sad...
18th April 2011

VERY FUNNY!!! Those buttons only work if you sit on the toilet
26th March 2013

You saved me
8th April 2013

Thanks alooooot!!!!
Man,,, you rock!!! You saved our day.. This is our 2nd day in Korea and my GF had to use the toilet so she asked me if I know how to flush and I had no freakin idea. She decided to take the kids to the pool anyways, while she's there I started searching youtube (which is full of assholes by the way) and asked her to keep trying different combination of buttons (just like you did) and ironically I came across your blog and read the whole thing including the comment and laughed my ass off while she's still combining the buttons...

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