South Koreans who are fed up with the daily grind are turning themselves in as “prisoners” at a mock jail as a means of escape.
Thousands of stressed-out workers and students have been paying $90 a night to live in solitary confinement inside the “Prison Inside Me,” a jail-like facilityin northeast Hongcheonthat provides clients the experience of incarceration.
The facility, which has hosted more than 2,000 inmates since 2013, simulates an inmate life by prohibiting any form of communication and use of mobile phones, clocks, or even mirrors.
Just like in real prisons, the meals served to the clients are unattractive, with rice porridge for breakfast and a steamed sweet potato for dinner.
Clients, who spend 24-48 hours cramped inside a 5-square meter cell, have claimed that the solitude provides a sense of freedom as it lets them get away from their busy lives, Reuters reports.
According to “Prison Inside Me” Co-founder Noh Ji-Hyang, the facility was inspired by her husband, a prosecutor worked 100 hours each week. “He said he would rather go into solitary confinement for a week to take a rest and feel better,” Noh revealed. “That was the beginning.”
South Korea has been known for its pressure-cooker academic and work culture which has been the subject of criticism from numerous researchers. A recent survey from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) stated that the average Korean employee worked a total of 2,027 hours in 2017. Such figures make them the third-longest working citizens in the world, just behind Mexicans and Costa Ricans.
While the government has implemented measures to improve working conditions by lowering the workweek from 68 to 52 hours and raising the minimum wage, economists have warned that this could potentially put more jobs at risk.
Noh said her satisfied customers have commented that they consider the facility as a haven and the world they eventually return to as the actual prison.
“This prison gives me a sense of freedom,” 28-year-old female office worker Park Hye-Ri was quoted as saying. “I was too busy. I shouldn’t be here right now, given the work I need to do. But I decided to pause and look back at myself for a better life.”
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