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Race to do nothing in Seoul

Race to do nothing in Seoul


It was held on Sunday in Seoul, the capital of South Korea 8th International Distraction Competition: About 80 participants from different countries came together to distract themselves and do nothing at all for 90 minutes. You can’t talk, sleep, look at your phone, or read, but only stare into space. The winner was the one with the most regular heartbeat, out of the ten finalists chosen by the public: in this edition the winner was Valentina Vilches, a Chilean woman who had lived in Seoul for years.

The contest was created in 2014 by the South Korean artist known as Woopsyang, and over the years it has also been held in Tokyo, Beijing and Rotterdam. the artist He made it clear She thought about competing after realizing that when she didn’t spend time on a particular activity she felt a lot of anxiety. Then he realized that he had a habit of comparing his life with the lives of others: Korean culture actually pushes people to study and work very intensely, even to the point of sacrificing their physical or mental health. Through the Distraction Contest, Woopsyang seeks to overturn this mindset, encouraging people to value the time they are not working.

A government survey conducted in 2022 found that a third of South Koreans between the ages of 19 and 34 suffered from burnout, that is, exhaustion related to study and work, in the past year. The main cause of burnout was anxiety (37 percent of cases), followed by excessive workload (21 percent), doubt about career prospects and lack of work-life balance.

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But for several years, there has been greater awareness of the burden of their work, among the highest among advanced economies, among many South Koreans. The current working hours limit was introduced in 2018: it provides a 40-hour working week plus a maximum of twelve hours of overtime, and companies that breach the 52-hour limit risk severe fines. But last year the government tried to increase the limit to 69 hours per week: the proposal was withdrawn after protests from the opposition and public opinion, especially young people.

Students also study very intensively, and many of them take additional courses to try to get into prestigious universities or get jobs in large companies.

Some participants, including this year’s winner, Valentina Vilchis, said that through their participation they wanted to show the Korean people the importance of rest. However, others seemed to participate specifically so they could get a free hour and a half to clear their heads: former professional skater Kwak Yoon-ji told CNN He heard about competition as a place where he could rest and clear his head, and thought, “Great, this is what I need.” The level of competitiveness of South Korean society is such that some people accept the importance of rest, and laziness must be transformed into competitive activity.

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Kim Ki Kyung, an employee heard from him guardianHe said he almost arrived late to the competition because he was also asked to work on Sunday morning. He explained that “Korean society is very competitive” and so he believes that “doing nothing is key sometimes.” “I think we forgot about it.”

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Sunday’s race was held outside the gates of the former royal palace in Seoul. Many participants had an umbrella with them or wore a raincoat to protect themselves from the rain. The bad weather caused some logistical problems, but the sound of rain may have helped some participants relax more.

Woopsyang and many of the participants wore it It came, a traditional Korean headdress that resembles a wide-brimmed hat. At one time, only men of high status could wear this outfit It cameThis still reminds us today of the nobles and intellectuals of the past, who spent a large part of their time not engaged in work.

The first international competition was held in 2014 in Seoul. Over the years, in addition to the eight international competitions, several “local” editions have been organised, all in South Korea: the latest on May 12, again in Seoul.

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