Suwon is a historical city in which the UNESCO-designated world cultural heritage Hwaseong is located. It was also the host city of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Game. Suwon is continuing efforts to develop into a global tourism city. Public restrooms not only represent a city's image but also a country's economic, cultural and educational status.
In preparing to host the 2002 World Cup games and to provide quality restrooms to the public, Suwon launched the project "Making Beautiful Public Restrooms" in late 1996 by gathering feedback from all levels of society. In March 1997, Suwon established the a plan to improve 788 public restrooms and restrooms in restaurants. In order to stand out from other cities and countries, Suwon set its focus on creating a world-class restroom culture. As part of this effort, Suwon invited experts from each field such as professors, artists, architects and business leaders in July 1997 and February 1999 to the symposium on "Making Beautiful Public Restrooms", and presented direction and insight on the project.
Adopting the concept of a "cultural public restroom", Suwon built 16 public restrooms combing traditional and modernistic features. These public restrooms are equipped with special toilets for the disabled, and seniors as well as state-of-the art sanitation facilities. In addition, sweet fragrances are used, walls are filled with birds and flowers, and music flows to put people at ease. Suwon plants to construct 20 more public restrooms. Since November 2008, Suwon started the "Beautiful Public Restroom Tour" program for free which attracted many tourists from home and abroad. Furthermore, in order to garner more interest among the citizens, Suwon holds the "Cleanest Public Restroom Contest" every month to select restaurants that maintain the cleanest restrooms. Currently, 76 restaurants have been chosen ("Cleanest Public Restroom" sign is posted). Suwon will also open more restrooms to the public located near downtown areas and sports stadiums.
A civic organization "Suwon Restroom Culture Association" was established in May 24 and active participation from citizens is expected. Suwon's campaign to developing beautiful public restrooms has grabbed the media's attention since 1998. Broadcasting companies (MBC, KBS, SBS) and newspapers (JoongAng Ilbo, Chosun Ilbo) praised the campaign and the globally renowned Wall Street Journal introduced Suwon as an origin of a new culture. Positive articles were also published by Nishi Nihon Newspaper (Japan), People's Daily Newspaper (China), LA Times, Economist, Reuters, AP, New China News Agency and Information Telegram Agency of Russia. The media exposures helped Suwon to develop into a mecca of "beautiful restroom culture."
This wave of change that began in Suwon is spreading nationwide. In order to fully launch a nation-wide campaign, the concept of investment and marketing needs to be adopted, and a well-organized restroom maintenance system needs to be in place. The public needs to also play a role in developing a sophisticated restroom culture. All in all, a shift in thinking among suppliers, managers and users as well as a legislative framework is called for.