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Smartphone-addicted Koreans brave ‘space out’ contest

With smartphone penetration close to 90 percent and the country apparently the most connected on the planet, South Korea seems like as good a place as any for a “space out” contest.

Launched by local officials in Seoul in 2014, the event dares online addicts to power down their handsets, sit in a park, and do absolutely nothing. Woah, imagine that.

“Let our brain – never free from information overload from a smartphone, TV or computer – relax!” the contest organizers implore, adding, “Let’s enjoy just thinking nothing!”

A contestant looking like he's already had enough.

A contestant looking like he’s already had enough.

If the mere thought of being separated from your trusty smartphone brings a bead of sweat to your brow, this certainly isn’t the contest for you. In fact, it turned out that this year’s contest wasn’t for most of Seoul’s 10 million people, as only 1,500 people applied to enter, the Guardian reported.

Related: Is smartphone addiction real? We ask the experts

Going with the slogan, “relax your brain,” the competition’s 60 selected finalists sat on mats in a city park on Sunday for a full 90 minutes, doing very little.

Contestants simply had to look as spaced out as possible, and concentrate on thinking about nothing, certainly not their smartphone and all the incoming messages they might be missing. Sleeping, eating, talking – and using gadgets – were all strictly prohibited for the duration of the competition. Judges also monitored contestants’ heart rates, a clever move that guaranteed to expose a stressed smartphone addict wondering how the heck they were going to get through the remaining 89 minutes without checking their device.

After a fiercely fought one-and-a-half hours that for spectators may have been as exciting as watching a skin form on hot milk, Sunday’s winner was announced as prominent local rapper Crush. “I was so exhausted physically and mentally while preparing an album, so I just wanted to relax for a while,” Crush said after the results were announced, adding, “This event is highly recommended for those who have migraines or complicated thoughts.” Though perhaps not highly recommended for smartphone addicts.