'Mr. Toilet' Building a Dream House

SUWON, South Korea -- He's known as South Korea's "Mr. Toilet" for his campaigns as a politician to beautify public restrooms. Now, Sim Jae-duck is taking the lavatory life to a new level -- and moving into a toilet.

Sim is building a two-story toilet-shaped house for the inaugural meeting later this month of the World Toilet Association. The group, supported by the South Korean government, aims no less than to launch a "toilet revolution," by getting people to open their bathroom doors for the sake of improving worldwide hygiene.

Representatives from 60 countries will gather in Seoul to spur the creation of national toilet associations of their own and spread the word about hygiene. Organizers argue that the issue deserves greater attention and cite UN figures that some 2.5 billion people live without proper sanitation or water supplies.

"The toilet revolution should start with talking about toilet issues freely," said Song Young-kwon, head of the organizing committee for the five-day conference that opens Nov. 21.

The Seoul conference will be accompanied by a toilet expo featuring exhibits to excite the public about the cause: including a "Hansel and Gretel" bathroom made from cookies and candy that gives presents to children when they flush, and a "toilet gallery cafe" where people can sit on colorful commodes while drinking tea.

Sim, a lawmaker in the National Assembly, hopes his house in his hometown, Suwon, some 45 kilometers south of Seoul, will help bring attention to the cause and is seeking a guest to pay $50,000 to stay one night with the proceeds to benefit the association that hopes to work with developing nations to build more and better toilets. Visitors just wanting a glimpse inside the bowl will be charged a $1 donation.

"Toilets stand central to people's lives," Sim said as workers scurried to put the finishing touches on the home -- including installing the final toilet inside.

The toilet theme is central to the house named Haewoojae, or a "place to solve one's worries," shaped like a 7.5-meter-tall toilet bowl. Thinking of how to push forward his cause of having better hygiene and sanitation, Sim tore down his former home to build the 1 billion won ($1.1 million) building.

A showpiece bathroom at the center of the 420-square-meter house is on display through a floor-to-ceiling window made of glass that turns opaque at the touch of a button. When guests enter to do their business, a motion sensor activates classical music.

The bathroom emerges into a spacious living room, featuring a grand staircase and lined by windows curving around the rounded facade of the building.

The home has four bathrooms, which include a whirlpool bathtub, urinals and large glass showers.

Occupants gain access to the roof balcony around the rim of the "bowl" by climbing up stairs through what would be a toilet drain -- which is equipped to collect rain for some functions to conserve drinking water. The home is encased in smooth, white-painted steel that appears similar to the ceramics used to make toilets.

Sim said he hoped visitors would be reminded of those living a life with less flush.

"The person who sits here and uses the toilets will have to think about those who don't have toilets," he said. "I believe all people can feel happiness in toilets."