by Monte McCoin
Two hours west of Pyeongchang in South Korea, home of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, guests pay 500,000 Korean won (about $470 U.S.) to stay for a week at Prison Inside Me, a jail-themed meditation center in the snowy mountain village of Hongcheon. Hundreds of customers from around South Korea have checked in since the facility opened in 2008, including office workers, stay-at-home moms and high school students.
According to a February 10, 2018 report from Canadian news outlet CBC, South Korea is the most overworked nation in Asia, where fourteen-hour days and six-day workweeks aren’t uncommon. South Koreans work an average of 2,069 hours a year.
Suk-won Kang recently visited Prison Inside Me for the third time. “I’m overworking. That’s the main reason I’m here,” he said. The 57-year-old engineer was clocking nearly 70 hours a week at a Kia and Hyundai plant in Seoul. In workaholic South Korea, going to the prison-themed retreat wasn’t punishment; it was his vacation.
Kang occupied one of 28 solitary confinement cells during his stay, enjoying its minimal amenities of a window, table and writing supplies, a tea set, a yoga mat and a panic button. The cell doors are locked, but guests are shown how to release the locks from the inside.
“Locking themselves up in solitary confinement here is not a prison; the true prison is the world outside,” declared Ji-hyang Noh, the facility’s co-founder.
Prison Inside Me operates as a non-profit run by an organization called the Happiness Factory.
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