Why do Koreans sleep on the floor

Bangs on the newspaper front

Why do Koreans sleep on the floor? (Daily mirror)

(02/11/2007) ETHNOLOGY
Why do Koreans sleep on the floor?

Koreans love their floor, which they sit on to eat, work or talk - and which they lie on to sleep.

The floor in Korean apartments is very warm, traditionally it is only heated from below. For over 1300 years the houses have had underfloor heating, which is called "Ondol": warm stone. In fact, the floor with Ondol can not only get warm, but even really hot - 30 to 35 degrees Celsius is considered ideal. Foreigners who are not used to this should put on thick socks, as shoes have to be left at the entrance when entering a Korean apartment.

Koreans themselves “love the heat,” as Namhee Chon, Korean lecturer at Freie Universität (FU), says. “With Ondol, we also associate emotional warmth.” Everything that happens in the family or among friends - celebrations, meals, drinking bouts, takes place on a heated surface. In the past, the floor in Korean houses was made of stone slabs covered with oiled paper. Lines that were also made of stone ran underneath. They were connected to the stove in the house, where wood or coal burned. While rice was boiling on the stove, the warm smoke from the fire heated the rooms. Today it is different: Most of the time, hot water flows under the floor, which comes warm into the apartment or is heated by an oil or gas system. Linoleum now lies over the cement floor.

But the customs have remained. There are now Koreans who sleep in western beds. And electric heating stoves have long been in the apartments. But many people still lie on the floor at night - on a thin mattress that is taken out of the closet in the evening and rolled up again in the morning. The warmth from below should also be healthy. "When Koreans have a cold, they heat up even more," says Namhee Chon.

Of course, underfloor heating is particularly important in winter - and then it promises the highest level of enjoyment. Once heated, the floor slowly loses its heat. It is especially hot in Buddhist temples. According to Namhee Chon, the monks say to themselves: "If we are not allowed to have women, we at least want to be nice and warm."
Bjorn Rosen

posted by eppi at 3:09 AM