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Mr. Toilet House? A Toilet Museum in Suwon, South Korea

The big gold-colored statue of a turd right next to the entrance was enough to tell me that Mr. Toilet House, the toilet museum in Suwon, South Korea, wasn’t going to be a disappointment!

The turd is about two meters high, a neat pyramid, made from some kind of gold-colored plastic or metal mesh. Two adult women stand with their backs to the camera, looking at two children at the base of the turd, who are partly obscured by one of the women. Enough is visible of one of the children to see that he/she is squatting as if pooping.
Visitors pose in front of the golden turd statue in front of the toilet museum. Notice the position of the children posing!

Mr. Toilet House

Believe it or not, “Mr. Toilet House” is the popular name for the Toilet Culture Museum in Suwon, just south of Seoul. I hadn’t even heard of its existence until I arrived in Suwon, where my plan was to visit the Suwon palace and the fortifications of the historic town.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I particularly love quirky little museums. They’re fun to visit and fun to write about. So, a toilet museum? I really had to see that!

When I asked about the museum at the Visitor Information Center in Suwon, next to the train station, the man there proudly pulled out his wallet and showed me a business card he carried with him. Not only did he have Mr. Toilet’s card, but it had even been autographed by Mr. Toilet himself.

The business card is pretty typical: beige background with the info in black, mostly in Korean, except that Mr. Toilet House's signature is scrawled across the middle. There are two crests or logos, on on either side. The left-hand one is yellow and, besides the Korean lettering also says Sim Jae Duck. The right-hand one is some symbols inside a 5-sided crest.
Mr. Toilet’s autograph

Mr. Toilet and the World Toilet Association

It’s hard to know how much of this toilet museum is meant to be serious, and how much is meant to be funny.

The founder, Mr. Sim Jae-duck, who became known as Mr. Toilet, was clearly obsessed with all things toilet related. The story goes that he was actually born in an outdoor toilet and got teased about it as a child. A Freudian psychologist would have a field day with this!

A Freudian psychologist would have a field day with Mr. Toilet's story! #toiletmuseum #mrtoilethouse #suwon #toilets Click To Tweet

Mr. Toilet grew up to become mayor of Suwon and founded his World Toilet Association in 2007. Its mission statement is:

For the humans’ dignity and their healthy lives, let world know the importance of toilets to public health and sanitation, as well as establish advanced toilet culture and contribute to humanity.

  • Toilets are the key to sanitation
  • Toilets are a sanctuary for human life and dignity
  • All humans have a right to access adequate (Clean&Safe) toilet facilities
  • Children, the disabled, and the elderly must be able to access and use toilets equally
  • Future toilets must be eco-friendly in order to preserve the environment
  • Toilet provisions should add benefit to the lives of local residents and they must be able to consistently maintain these facilities

All worthy and important ideas, of course, and the World Toilet Organization, a different NGO based in Singapore, would probably agree with them. The WTO was also founded by a man name Sim; I have no idea if they are related.

Mr. Toilet died in 2009, after which his family donated their house to become a toilet museum. (Factoid: There are other toilet museums in New Delhi, India and Kyiv, Ukraine.)

You might also like to read about these other sights in Seoul:

Mr. Toilet’s house

It isn’t surprising that his family would want to give the house away; Mr. Toilet’s obsession went so far that he redesigned his house so that it looked like a toilet. Not only that, the actual toilet in his house wasn’t hidden away, off to the side, like it normally would be, but sits right in the center of the ground floor. A full-size glass window allows the person sitting on the toilet to see through what I assume was their living room into the garden. If he wanted privacy, one flick of a switch turns the window opaque.

The bathroom has a window in the background looking out on what is now exhbit space. A vase of flowers stands on the floor in front of it. The toilet stands on the diagonal, facing the window at a slant. Next to it is a life-size standing image of Mr. Toilet House in a suit and tie. A mirror is partly visible on the right-hand wall and a urinal on the left-hand wall.
The bathroom in Mr. Toilet House, in the middle of the ground floor, including a window onto the former living room.

Think about this for a minute: he could see into the living room from the toilet. This meant that anyone in the living room at that particular moment could see him as he was doing his business, whether he was sitting on the toilet or standing at the urinal. Could they have a conversation? And if so, wouldn’t other sounds (and smells!) carry as well?

The living room, as well as the rest of the house, has been converted to gallery space, displaying information about toilets, of course.

The toilet museum’s garden

It really gets hilarious—and somewhat graphic—out in the garden, where statues illustrate various facts about toilets and their history. At the entrance to the garden, the first statue is of “Toile,” a sort of golden turd with little wings. It’s the museum’s mascot. Why Toile has wings? I have no idea!

Toile is bright yellow and perhaps a meter high. It looks like a neat turd but has big eyes and a small mouth and nose. It also has, inexplicably, white wings sticking out on either side.
Toile, the mascot of Mr. Toilet House

And it doesn’t get better after that. (Or maybe I should say it gets even better after that!)

Displays in the garden show toilets used around the world and throughout history: chamber pots, a Roman toilet, urinals, etc. It’s the statues of people that set it all up for ridicule. Most are metal, some are plaster, but they demonstrate the use of the facilities in graphic detail. How can you not laugh at these?

The statue is in a copper color: a figure of a man, standing on a historical toilet consisting of two rectangular slabs of stone. The idea is to stand on the stones and poop/pee between them. In the photo the man is facing away from the camera with his pants pulled down to mid-thigh. He is squatting and a large poop is emerging from his anus, hanging down. The poop is for some reason, gold-colored.
See what I mean by graphic?

The Toilet Culture Center

As you can imagine, children would have a great time at the toilet museum. Across the road from Mr. Toilet House is a Toilet Culture Center. (This is also where the actual working public toilets for visitors are.)

Plaster statue of a Korean peasant slightly squatting, with a surprised look on his face, above two stones. He is wearing a white outfit and has a white headband tied around his head. His pants are pulled down around his thighs and his hands are up in the air as if someone is pointing a gun at him.
Why’s this guy looking so surprised?

The Toilet Culture Center includes the observation point (i.e. the roof) which allows visitors to get the full view of Mr. Toilet’s toilet-shaped house.

The house is flat-sided at the back and rounded in front (i.e. toward the camera), just like a toilet. It is topped in some sort of white material that looks just like a toilet seat. There is an open space in the middle, just like a toilet bowl. Around the edge of the roof are perhaps 30 flagpoles waving flags from all different nations.
This view from the observation point shows how Mr. Toilet redesigned his house to look like a toilet.

On the second floor is an interactive space for children. They can learn about poop and how it should look if it’s healthy, slide down a slide inside a huge toilet, sit on a seat that makes a farting sound, and learn the answers to why people fart. Unfortunately, while some of the questions are translated into English, many of the answers are only in Korean. If you bring your kids, make sure to do some studying up on excretory functions before you go, so you can answer their questions!

a sign in the children's area of the Toilet Museum explains why people poo, fart, pee and burp. Title: Signals from our body. Under that: "Where are poo, pee, and fart from? Abracadabra, our magical digestive system!" Under that are four thought bubbles, each with a symbol of each function and, besides quite a bit of text in South Korean, each has a question: "Why do I need to poo?" "Why do I need to pee?" "Why do I need to fart?" and "Why do I need to burp?"
a sign in the children’s area of the Toilet Museum

The goal, according to their informational flyer, is to create a Toilet Theme Park. The planned new section will be a World Toilet Experience Center, “where people can experience different toilet cultures in the world.” Hmm. Do you suppose that means people will be able to try out lots of different toilets in lots of different ways?

Now it’s your turn: let the scatological jokes begin! I’m already flushed with embarrassment! Add your comments below.

Let the scatological jokes begin! I'm already flushed with embarrassment! #mrtoilethouse #toiletmuseum #suwon Click To Tweet

Visiting the toilet museum

Address: 458-9 Jangan-ro, Jangan-gu, Suwon

Getting to Mr. Toilet House

A word of caution: the museum is not easy to find. A tourist bus goes there, in theory, but at the visitor’s information center next to the train station I was given directions to a city bus and some complicated instructions on how to find the museum once I got off the bus. It took about 45 minutes to get there, and my visit was about the same, though with kids I suppose it would be more.

Take Express Bus number 7790 or 7800 from Sadang Station. From the subway, take line 1 to Sungkyunkwan University station. At the 4th station exit, take a local bus: many buses pass nearby the museum, so ask at the bus stop. Whatever bus you take, get off at Dongwon High School and walk about 500 meters northwest from there.

I’d highly recommend just taking a taxi! They’re not expensive in Suwon, and the trip would be considerably shorter and easier that way.

Hours

Tuesday-Sunday, March-October 10:00-18:00; November-February 10:00-17:00. Closed on Mondays.

Admission

Free.

If you’re planning a trip to this museum, book your accommodations in Suwon here. Suwon is quite near Seoul, and you could certainly see the museum as a day trip from Seoul. Book your Seoul accommodations here.

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Pinnable image: Text above: Mr. Toilet House in Suwon Korea: Where you can learn far more than you ever needed to know about pooping, peeing and toilets! (with the Rachel's Ruminations logo). Image below: Toile, the museum's mascot.

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