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You can pay to de-stress in a blank room in South Korea

Sometimes, all you need is somewhere quiet, with a view of the natural world, to get some much-needed headspace and de-stress.

Some South Koreans are paying for the privilege to do just that, in a café near Seoul Forest that allows customers to book time slots in designated “chill out” spaces.

According to the Washington Post, The Green Lab is a tea shop that seats just 10 people, who are not allowed to wear shoes or speak while they are there.

The café has seen consistent levels of visitors throughout the coronavirus pandemic, as the idea of having a dedicated space to relax gains popularity among South Koreans.

Customers can sit in a comfortable chair in a room overlooking plenty of trees and the sky, and can read, write, meditate, or simply enjoy the view over a cup of tea.

Bae Hyun, an employee at The Green Lab, told the Post that it was difficult to find spaces in Korean society where “it’s acceptable to do absolutely nothing”.

“People seem to be finding more interest in this, though I think it will take some more time for it to become widely popular,” he said, adding that as people learn to live with Covid, the concept may become more common.

Stress levels in South Korea were high before the pandemic hit, with workers racking up among the highest number of overtime hours in the world.

In 2018, after official figures revealed that hundreds of people died from overwork in 2017, the South Korean government passed a law to reduce the maximum working hours from 68 to 40 hours per week, with 12 hours of paid overtime.

The word used to describe the phenomenon of death by overworking is called “gwarosa”.

A survey published earlier this year found that levels of stress and depression among South Koreans increased due to the pandemic, with 72.8 per cent of more than 1,000 Koreans surveyed saying they were stressed.

Yoon Duk-hwan, a consumer trends researcher, told the Post that he expects higher demand for relaxation spaces as the pandemic continues.

“It’s difficult to cope with feeling both trapped and lonely at the same time,” he said. “They want a space where they’re alone to be somewhere else other than their home.”