The Korean Chonsooghee (water filtering machine)

When I lived in America, a couple of Korean students from the university stayed at my house.  One of the girls went to Walmart and bought huge bottles of filtered water to drink. She encouraged everyone to drink it.  She thought we were all going to die from drinking out of the tap.  I wasn’t so sure she was right, but I appreciated her caring, and when I tried her filtered water from Walmart, it was really good. I knew when we were in Nigeria that we were encouraged to boil and filter the water before we drank it. I knew that the missionaries in Bucharest, Romania boiled their water before they drank it because they said the water pipes were made of clay and very old, and some of them had broken, and they were afraid that bacteria had gotten into the water. However, where we lived in Romania, they told us we had the cleanest water in all of Europe because it came directly from the snow in the mountains.  Most Americans are accustomed to drinking out of the tap. When I came to Korea, everyone was either buying bottles of water or using special water filters they call chonsooghees.

I knew the bottled water was a fad in America, so I asked the Koreans if we really needed to drink bottled water, or if we could just drink the water from the tap.  The response was that they didn’t know, but they wanted to be safe.  At times, before I got my water machine, money was short, so I just made iced tea with water from the tap for us to drink, and no one got sick.  Koreans are very clean people, and they may not actually need these machines, but they are nice, and they are right it is better to be safe than sorry.

You can find these water filtering machines everywhere.  If you go to E-Mart, you can get your water from a water filter. E-Mart provides small paper cups that are like envelopes for you to use. If you go to church, to school, or to work, these water filtering machines are everywhere. If I go to get my car worked on, the waiting room has a chonsooghee machine. In public places, they usually stand in the floor.

Some of the ones in public places give only cold water. Some give cold water and room temperature water, and still others give cold water or hot water.  Teachers’ lounges usually have them with hot water so the teachers can drink coffee or tea on their breaks easily. They sell small packages of instant coffee in the grocery stores that is just enough for one small cup of coffee.  Next to the water machines, they put the coffee packages and tea bags, usually for green tea. Green tea requires no sugar, so they usually don’t supply the sugar packages, but some do, and in that case, they will supply black, brown, or orange tea.

This is the chonsooghee at my house. It is designed to sit on the cabinet, but I don’t have enough cabinet space, so we put it on a small cart.


I have a chonsooghee in my house.  We bought bottled water in the beginning because we had no idea if the water from the tap was good or not, but we wanted to be safe.  However, it is hard to lug bags with large 2 liter bottles of water around, so we switched to a water machine.  You have to go to a special company to get them.  A Korean friend made the connection for me.

You just put a glass on the chonsooghee and press the button, and it fills your glass up and stops automatically when it gets to the top of the glass. If you want less water, just press the button while it is filling again, and it stops.

The chonsooghee machine I have is my second machine.  The first one was still good, but the chonsooghee lady said it was so old and out of date that she couldn’t guarantee it anymore, so I caved and got a second one.  Once you begin with a chonseeghee machine, the company sends someone every so often to clean and maintain your machine to make sure everything is working fine.  While they are there, they offer you a sales magazine with all their latest products. They have fancier chonsooghees as well as special attachments for toilets to heat the toilet seat and other things like that. I never went for any of their other products, just the water machine.

Our chonsooghee has three temperature settings.

If you look on the top right of the machine in the picture above, you will see that part of the machine is lit up.  That means that ours is set for cold water.  If you press the water drop in the middle of the top, it will light up, and you will get room temperature water.  If you press the squiggly lines on the left top of the machine, they will light up, and you will get hot water.  You don’t have to mess with heating your water. It comes out of the machine hot.  If you want to start water coming out of the machine, just press the place in the middle of the bottom that has a light around it, and water will come out.  If you want to turn it off, just press it again. Ours is set so that it will fill up a large glass of water.  I use this water in all my cooking. We only use the water from the tap for washing.

There are fancier chonsooghees than we have, but this is plenty fancy enough. In fact, the last one I had only had a choice between cold and room temperature water, but the chonsooghee lady insisted they weren’t making that model anymore, so I ended up with this model. Koreans are really into updating everything.  They always repair and buy new even when they don’t have to. It is the way of life in Korea, and it keeps everything very nice.  They are always doing road work when I don’t think the road needs it or plowing up a flower garden and planting another. It is the Korean way. It keeps Korea looking very new, update, and modern.  It didn’t surprise me that they were no longer making the model of water machine I had and that the chonsooghee lady was pressuring me to buy a better one.

If you come to Korea, just be ready. If you are in a public place and need a drink, there will be a chonsooghee with little paper cups, usually made like small envelopes, and that is where you will get your water.  These are all over Korea, in every business, in every school, in every church, and in every home.  No wonder the Korean girl who stayed with me in America thought it was so important to be careful about your water.  The people in the area where I was living in America always had a high rate of cancer, and some of them suspected there might be chemicals in their soil because there were a lot of big plants where many of them worked, and they were drinking well water.  There are laws about disposal of chemicals, but the people who lived there knew that the companies didn’t always follow the rules, and they were afraid that they had put chemicals in their soil, but they never proved it.  The Korean girl was smart to be careful about the water. We should all make sure our water is clean, and the Koreans are diligent about doing it.


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