South Korea, land of tech giants like Samsung and LG, is one of the most wired countries in the world; its smartphone penetration rate is 70%, compared to 58% in the US. Users have internet access throughout the country’s subways and Seoulites can now charge their phones at hydropower stations in Cheonggyecheon, a waterway running through the city. The frenetic pace of the city is enough to inspire a competition that requires people to do just the opposite: chill out.
Korean performance group Duo Elect2ronic-ship is running a “space-out” competition. In the contest, a hand-picked group of 50 people will sit in chairs by city hall and, as the name of the contest suggests, do nothing.
“Because of smart devices, we are unable to escape from external stimulation even for a moment. In such a society, I wanted to contemplate the idea of not doing anything,” one of the organizers told South Korean news site the Hankyoreh.
For three hours, participants will not be allowed the distractions of listening to music, using mobile phones, reading, or sleeping. Mindless activities like head-scratchings will be permitted, according to the group’s Facebook page (link in Korean). After the three-hour period, the participant with the lowest measured heart rate and the most relaxed body (as judged by observers’ votes) wins.
The notion that it’s healthy to zone out would help boost the mental health of Korea’s competitive and stressed out citizens. It might even help grow the economy (mind wandering allows people to be creative and come to new solutions). Currently, South Korea has the highest rate of stress-related suicides at 40 a day, and many of those are youths.