In South Korea, “spacing out” is now a championship sport

Do nothing and reap rewards.
Do nothing and reap rewards.
Image: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
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Do you have it in you? The strength to reach down deep inside and do less, be less, achieve less than anyone ever has?

Then perhaps you have what it takes to compete in South Korea’s annual “space out” competition, an annual challenge recognizing those with a superior ability to do nothing at all.

The event began in 2014 as a piece of performance art. Artists in Seoul conceived of the contest as an antidote to South Korea’s occasionally unhealthy relationship with screens. The country has the world’s highest rate of internet and smartphone use, with 88% of the population in possession of a smartphone.

Contest rules require entrants to sit and do absolutely nothing for 90 minutes: no talking, sleeping, eating, screen-checking, watch-looking, or fidgeting. The person able to undergo all this inactivity with the most stable heart rate wins.

The appeal of spacing out caught on quickly. A similar contest took place in Beijing last year. Organizers received more than 1,500 entry applications for this year’s event in Seoul on May 22. In the end some 60 participants sat in a local park for the chance to be the best at nothing. Local rapper Shin Hyo-Seob, better known by the stage name Crush, walked away with this year’s top honors. He was, fittingly, rather relaxed about it.

“I did not know I was going to win,” the singer said, according to the Korea Times. “I was just spacing out without thinking of anything. It was a great time to rest my mind and body.”