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This Virginia spa honors an age-old Korean tradition

Spa World in Centreville brings jjimjilbangs to the DMV.

CENTREVILLE, Va. — To celebrate AAPI heritage month we're celebrating local businesses with AAPI roots. Spa World in Centreville, Virginia, offers a unique experience in our area that honors an age-old Korean tradition. 

When Sang Lee immigrated to the U.S. at 17, he knew that one day he would take a leap of faith. He knew he wanted to bring something from his homeland to his new home.

"What can we bring in that is so Korean, but beneficial to everybody, and that was a spa," Lee said. "We wanted [customers] to experience Korean bathing culture, which is separated by gender and children friendly."

Spa World is modeled after a traditional Korean bathhouse. In Korean, it's called jjimjilbang, which translates to "heated rooms."

"The tradition was was everybody, father and son, mother and daughter, go to the bath house and scrub each other's backs. That's the tradition," Lee said.

It's an essential part of South Korean culture, found in many cities and towns. Just about everyone of all ages in Korea go to jjimjilbangs. 

"Everybody from the ancient world, everybody wants to live a long life, from the king, to civilians. Everybody wants to live a long life," Lee said. 

Korea has a long history of sauna bathing and wellness. It's a tradition that dates back to the 15th century and was first used for medicinal purposes. Over time, it evolved into a gathering place for relaxation, beauty rituals and health benefits that go beyond a quick soak.

But the unspoken code of manners can make a first-time visit intimidating.

"When you first come in we give you a locker and a uniform," Jean Lee said. "The purpose of getting fully undressed and having the gender-separated areas is we want you in your purest form." 

The nearly 50,000 square foot building is a wellness oasis with a lot under one roof. You can choose from six different sauna rooms. Each room has qualities good for your health, including minerals and temperature settings for therapeutic and healing effects. 

For Sang Lee, nothing is more rewarding than modest beginnings to achieving success. 

"We came here with the small dream of making the American dream and well after 40 years, I think I'm still dreaming," he said.

To visit Spa World yourself, check out their website for details.

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