Politicians are often known for making U-turns. South Korea's Sim Jae-duck is better known for U-bends. 'Many people realise that toilets are a serious issue,' said Mr Sim, 67, a lawmaker from the ruling Uri Party and mayor of Suwon city, which he represents in the legislature. He is known as 'Mayor Toilet' to fellow parliamentarians. On Tuesday, Mr Sim, who says he was born in a lavatory - said to be considered good luck - was aglow with pride when he inaugurated the World Toilet Association in Seoul. The association, which has received about US$10 million in government support, is designed to promote toilet-related policies globally. It aims to overcome toilet-linked infections in the developing world, which kill around 4,500 children daily; promote clean water policies; and turn going to the toilet into a 'cultural experience' by hanging paintings and playing music through speakers in WCs worldwide. The association will compete with an existing NGO, the World Toilet Organisation, of which Mr Sim used to be a member but which he considers ineffective due to its lack of governmental clout. He said five countries had shown interest in his association and he expected 50 would join within a year. It is hoped the association will make South Korea a global leader in the field, much as the country is in the semiconductor, shipbuilding and mobile phone industries. The association said the average person spent three years of their life in toilets, that women spent more time in them than men, and that most people preferred sit-down facilities. It was also found that squat toilets promoted better bowel movement. Last week, South Korea-based foreign correspondents were taken on a toilet tour of Suwon (the name, coincidentally, means 'water source') a provincial capital one hour southeast of Seoul. The city of 1.1 million people, headquarters of multinational Samsung Electronics and home to Manchester United football star Park Ji-sung, used to be renowned for its medieval fortified walls, its castle-cum-palace and its chargrilled beef ribs. Today, its fame also rests on its pristine public toilets. It is easy to see why. Enter the toilets outside the city's Summer Palace and you encounter WCs shaped like a traditional Korean hat. Inside the ones for women, you can listen to music composed by Vivaldi. After checking the electronic vacancy displays for a free cubicle, you can contemplate a bamboo garden through a floor-to-ceiling window. 'Don't worry, it's been walled off and no one can see in,' says an official. Etiquette buttons emit the sound of tinkling water when pressed, which drowns out any noise you may be making. And what is that miniature urinal there for? It is for boys accompanying their mothers. In the toilets outside the city's East Gate - winner of a provincial lavatory contest - there are paintings on the walls and perfume wafting through the air. In the World Cup Stadium, toilet buildings are shaped like giant footballs; their hi-tech urinals are waterless and chemical-free. And in the 'firefly' toilet (so named as fireflies thrive only in pristine environments), men can enjoy views of the city's reservoir through a horizontal window. But there are drawbacks. 'Homeless people come in and make it into a living area and make it dirty,' said Baek Myo-sook, 72, a local resident using the East Gate facilities. 'But I love coming to these toilets.' They are a huge improvement over the smelly loos of the past: a Korean proverb says that 'toilets are like mothers-in-law: the farther away the better'. Suwon's palaces of convenience - the city spends 1.7 billion won (HK$14.3 million) a year on 100 flagship toilets - were put in place by Mr Sim, twice the city's mayor. He overhauled the public toilets for the 2002 football World Cup, fearing that South Korea would compare unfavourably with tournament co-host Japan. He led what he calls a 'toilet revolution' in Suwon, which is now a national showcase for public toilet policy. Citizens soon got the message. 'At first, people complained. They asked why I was putting so much money into toilets. But today, they are proud and I have few people complaining.' Mr Sim brought in a national Toilet Act in 2004 - a world first, he claims. Among other things, it mandates 1.5 women's public toilets for every male lavatory and stipulates the use of recycled water in all restrooms on public highways. A central government official familiar with Mr Sim's achievements considered them emblematic of how South Korea's once unresponsive bureaucracies had become more public-friendly in the past few years.