Did you know: smartphone-addicted Koreans are "spacing out" in a national contest

Not doing anything is officially a contest in Seoul. Think you have the guts to compete?

Not doing anything is officially a contest in Seoul. Think you have the guts to compete?


What's the world's most connected country? The answer might surprise some of you and seem wholly logical to others – it's South Korea, where 90% of the public owns a smartphone tethered to a lighting-fast LTE network. And while we're at it, it's not just phones – this is the place where Samsung and LG are laying the IoT foundations with connected fridges, ovens, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and who knows what else! In a land of such hyper-connectivity, it's not a stretch to assume that everybody is driven ever so slightly nuts by the over-stimulation from the endless stream of novelty, notifications, and new information.

Smartphone addiction is running rampant on a global scale, but living in the world's most connected country, it has to be the people of South Korea who need a break the most. That's why each year (since 2014), Seoul officials challenge the population to gather in a city park and spend the next hour and a half doing nothing but sit in the sun with their brains switched off. Not surprisingly, the initiative isn't exactly popular in a society that gets all jittery and itchy if it has to let go of its handsets for more than a minute.

Only 1500 out of Seoul's 10 million residents showed up this last Sunday, a warm day with temperatures averaging over 30C (86F). Some had to bring umbrellas and parasols to pull through, and in addition to braving the heat and boredom, they weren't allowed to look at watches or shuffle too much. In this quasi-meditative state, the one with the most stable heart rate – and therefore least stressed about their gadget-less situation – was deemed the winner.

After the escapade concluded, the judges elected local rapper Crush as the winner. The MC who penned hit singles "Don't Forget" and "Oasis" (both at around 9 million YouTube views) told reporters that he was "exhausted physically and mentally" while preparing his next release, so he came down to "relax for a while." Winning the contest must have made his experience all the more fortunate.

Previously, we've reflected on the epidemic of smartphone addiction in articles such as the ones linked below. 'Nomophobia', or the feeling of separation anxiety from being left without a smartphone is a legitimate disorder that's being tackled with actual treatment programs in rehabilitation facilities. Another common symptom in handset owners is the so-called Phantom Vibrations Syndrome (PVS) – experiencing perceived vibrations from a device that's not really vibrating. Fun times!

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6 Comments

1. dimas

Posts: 3235; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Life is so fast-paced and stressful in korea that relaxing is considered a privilege.

2. joevsyou

Posts: 1091; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

most connected country and the most darkest country side by side! it likes the south is sucking the connectivity out of it's other half

4. dimas

Posts: 3235; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

They're the yin and yang of economics and internet.

3. legiloca

Posts: 1673; Member since: Nov 11, 2014

This is exciting and deep at the same time, we humans indeed came to the point we can't live without our phones anymore that we dumbly put out a contest to see who can still live without one :/

5. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3934; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

I use to have phantom vibrations but now it's phantom notification because I swear when my phone isn't with me, sometimes I hear my text notification sound off in the distance, it's crazy and I hate it.

6. ShadowHammer

Posts: 191; Member since: Mar 13, 2015

Not trying to make fun, or anything, but does anybody know why the #1 guy is wearing a helmet? While I don't consider myself addicted to my phone, I will say that I certainly seem to be more attached to it than I used to. For example, I don't like to leave the house without it "just in case."

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