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South Koreans compete to see who’s best at doing absolutely nothing


More than 100 people gathered silently on yoga mats over the weekend to do absolutely nothing, in a Seoul event that is part physical challenge, part art piece, and part respite from South Korea’s hyper-competitive society.

The annual Space-out competition, held on Sunday, finds who’s best at zoning out for 90 minutes without falling asleep, checking their phone or talking.

Participants’ heart rates are monitored, while onlookers vote for their 10 favorite contestants. Whoever has the most stable heart rate among the 10 takes home the trophy.

Among those taking part was speed skater Kwak Yoon-gy, a double Olympic silver medalist.

Speed skater Kwak Yoon-gy takes part in the annual Space-out competition held on Sunday in Seoul.

“I tried out for the Olympics five times and have never taken a proper rest while training for 30 years,” said the 34-year-old short-track specialist, who took third place.

“I heard this place is where I can clear my mind and rest at least during this time, so I came here thinking, ‘Wow, this is what I needed so much.’”

More than 4,000 people applied to participate in the competition, hosted by the city government. The 117 contestants selected ranged from a child in second grade to people in their 60s.

For many participants, it was a way to recover from burnout and stress, often from their work, in a country with high academic stress and extreme pressure to succeed.

“I usually had a lot of worries and stress, so I applied [to participate] because I thought it would be nice to blow away such stress and worries by spacing out in the competition,” said 26-year-old YouTuber Kim Seok-hwan.

26-year-old YouTuber Kim Seok-hwan zones out as he participates in the annual Space-out competition