Despite the fact that this article makes my visit to Seoul’s Chaum Center sound almost like a trip to Wonkaland, I did learn quite a few valuable things about myself during my stay: 1. I am claustrophobic but, if cheered on by several nurses at once, will power through a 30-minute MRI; 2. I only have 11 sets of ribs, as opposed to the usual 12. This occurs in about 10 percent of humans; and 3. I (still) pass out when having blood taken.
Body and Seoul
The South Korean city is the site of what may be the worldâ€™s most ambitious wellness center.
My routine exam at the Chaum Center in Seoul, South Korea, began with a nurse instructing me to disrobe. Next, she ordered me to assume various positions on colored markers on the floorâ€”Have I played this game before?â€”as she took notes about my circulation.
This introduction to the Chaum Centerâ€™s services was not entirely surprising: From the moment I walked into the 250,000-square-foot facilityâ€™s massive wood-wrapped atrium, I knew this would not be a typical spa experience. Opened in October by Korean doctor Kwang Yul Chaâ€”a leading specialist in fertility and stem-cell researchâ€”the Chaum Center is a multipurpose medical and wellness institution that marries the high practice standards of Western medicine with traditional Eastern remedies such as acupuncture, herbal treatments, and massage. The sprawling complex comprises a health club, a destination spa, and a futuristiclooking medical clinic, with features including a meditation garden, a teahouse, and an indoor/outdoor swimming pool.
The Chaum Center operates as a private medical club, offering memberships beginning at about $155,000 plus $4,000 in annual dues. But nonmembers can take advantage of the facilityâ€™s services through individual spa treatments ($120), and packages that range from one-day visits ($500) to the two-week-long Journey to New Life (about $9,000, not including accommodations), which consists of antiaging regimens, nutritional counseling, hair and scalp care, personal training, spa services, and more. â€śOur approach is comprehensive and holistic, not reactionary,â€ť says Cha. â€śThe goal is not to deny aging; it is to age in the most beautiful and healthy way possible.â€ť
The destination-spa-style programs at Chaum can begin with an intensive medical screening in one of the centerâ€™s 12 hives (private examination rooms that bear no resemblance to doctorâ€™s offices). Test by test, nurses dressed in smart blue cardigans and colorful scarves arrive with various pieces of medical equipment for MRIs, sonograms, blood testing, CT scans, and other exams. Based on test results, a team of doctors, therapists, and nutritionists develop a program tailored to your genetic and environmental needs. Stem-cell therapies are major components to almost every program, as are fitness
and dietary regimens and massages.
The Chaum Centerâ€™s 35-room spa offers more than 70 services ranging from Turkish hammam treatments to Eastern reflexology. The signature Evercell facial uses electric currents to massage the centerâ€™s proprietary stem cellâ€“based Evercell products into the skin. (After the treatment my face looked smoother and brighter than it did when I was 17.) In between spa treatments, visitors can eat at Les Trois, the centerâ€™s organic Mediterranean restaurant, where your menuâ€”designed by a chef, a doctor, and a nutritionistâ€” will likely include wine and dessert.
After undergoing various testsâ€”including the game of naked Twisterâ€”I began meeting with the specialists who would design my menus and treatments. When I consulted with two chiropractors (both spoke near-perfect English), they brought up some contortion concerns with regard to my torso. Among the treatments they prescribed was a Watsu therapy designed to make me feel like a prenatal baby.
During the treatment, a Watsu therapist cradled me in the fetal position and gently swung me around in bodytemperature water. Though self-conscious at first, I soon relaxed and started to feel like I was flying through space. Whatever I was doing, I was pretty certain I had never played this game before. â€”JACKIE CARADONIO