South Korean Soldiers Take Ballet Lessons to Relieve Stress

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Guarding the border with North Korea is a very stressful job for the South Korean soldiers in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas, but they recently found a very unconventional way to unwind – taking ballet lessons.

Once a week, the young soldiers of the Koran army’s army’s 25th Division switch their heavy army boots for ballet shoes and take part in a ballet class intended to relieve some of the stress of guarding the world’s most heavily fortified border. Under the guidance of Lee Hyang-jo, a ballerina at the Korean National Ballet who started teaching at the base a year ago, the young soldiers struggle to do splits pirouettes and other ballet moves, as a way of relaxing.

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South-Korean Technology Addicts Participate in Bizarre Space-Out Competition

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A strange ‘space-out competition’ recently saw 60 South Koreans in the country’s capital of Seoul put aside their smartphones and tablets and simply sit on the ground in a public park, thinking and doing nothing for 90 minutes. The person measured as having the most stable heart rate at the end of that period was judged the winner.

With more than 80% of its 50 million-strong population owning a smartphone, South Korea is considered one of the world’s ‘most wired’ countries. National statistics show that users spend an average of four hours a day tweeting, texting or playing video games on their handhelds, and about 15% show symptoms of addiction. This growing fixation with technology and the internet is seen as a serious problem, so to give people a chance to disconnect, if only for a short time, and promote a life free of information overload, a group of artists came up with the Space Out Competition.

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Unique ‘Pay as You Trash’ System Helps South Korea Cut Food Waste

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In a bid to control the nation’s growing problem with food wastage, the South Korean government has started a unique initiative – ‘Pay as You Trash’. Residents are required to separate their food waste from the rest of their trash and dump it separately in a centralised bin. And in order to access the bin, they actually need to pay by the kilo!

As of now, the South Korean government has three methods in place to charge citizens for the food thrown away. One is through an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) card – when users tap this card – embedded with their personal tag – over a specially designed food waste bin, the lid will open, allowing them to dump their waste. This waste is automatically weighed and recorded in the user’s account. The user needs to settle this bill on a monthly basis. Each RFID bin costs 1.7 million won ($1,500) and can cater to 60 households.

The second billing method is through pre-paid garbage bags. These specially designed bags are priced based on volume. For instance, in Seoul, a 10-liter garbage bag costs around 190 won (less than $1). There’s also a bar code management system in place, in which residents deposit food waste directly into composting bins and pay for it by purchasing bar code stickers attached to the bin.

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Bizarre “Death Experience” School Helps Depressed Koreans Appreciate Life by Locking Them in Coffins

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A new treatment for suicidal patients in South Korea involves locking them up in wooden coffins.  The fake “death experience” apparently helps students appreciate life better after confronting a simulated version of their last moments. 

The rate of suicide in Korea is on the rise, with about 40 people killing themselves every day. Experts believe that the nation’s super-competitive atmosphere is responsible for so many cases of depression and suicide. And according to the Seoul Hyowon Healing Center, the solution to this crisis lies in their ‘death experience’ therapy. 

Participants at the centre come from all walks of life, including teenagers who struggle with pressure at school, older parents experiencing isolation, and the elderly who are afraid of becoming a financial burden on their families. They all don white robes and get into coffins arranged in rows. Beside each coffin is a small desk with pens and paper. Students sit inside the coffins and listen to a short talk by Jeong Yong-mun, a former funeral worker who is now the head of the healing centre. He explains to them that they should accept their problems as a part of life and try to find joy in the most difficult situations.

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Cosmetic Surgery and Botox for Pets a Growing Trend in South Korea

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Move over, humans, it seems animals need makeovers too. It’s all the rage in South Korea right now as pet owners are actually paying for cosmetic surgery for their furry companions!

Some of the popular procedures include tail shortening and ear trimming for dogs, to make them ‘cute’ with pointy ears. Fat reduction is another popular surgery, along with stretch marks removal, wrinkle smoothing, double eyelid removal and even botox injections. These procedures start from $60 and ostensibly run into the thousands.  

It’s not entirely surprising, given that South Korea is the plastic surgery capital of the world. This is the place where tourists become unrecognisable to the extent that they need special doctor certificates to return to their native lands after having work done on their faces. So it was only a matter of time before people started thinking of botoxing their pets as well.

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There Is a “Crappy” Poop-Themed Cafe in South Korea

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Believe it or not, there’s a cafe in Seoul, South Korea that has poop as its central theme. From the outside, Poop Cafe looks perfectly normal but when it comes to service, everything comes with a toilet twist.

Coffee and tea, for instance, are served in adorable little toilet bowl-shaped cups. The foam art on the lattes are poop-shaped, as are the throw pillows and cushions that decorate the shop. Poop shaped scones are served with jam in a toilet bowl and the cups have cute poop faces on them too.

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Visitors Flock to South Korea’s Sheep Cafe

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When South Korean café owner Lee Kwang-ho decided to add a couple of sheep to his payroll, it was the best business move of his life. Since 2011, the fluffy employees at Nature Café have been attracting hordes of animal lovers and tourists. The shop serves all the café staples such as coffee, tea, and cake, but it all seems sort of extra-special when enjoyed in the company of a couple of fluffy sheep.

According to Lee, the café’s popularity has spiked recently because according to the lunar calendar 2015 is the Year of the Sheep. So lots of people want to see sheep, and the café is more convenient than seeking them out on a ranch. 21-year-old Lee Hyeon-ji agreed: “We were planning to go to a sheep ranch , but it’s too far and we didn’t have enough time to go there. Then we heard about this place where we can see sheep in Seoul and came to this sheep cafe.”

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Struggling Korean Baseball Team Replaces Fans with Cheering Robots

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A struggling South Korean Major League baseball team has come up with a novel idea to boost players’ morale. They’re replacing human fans with robots called ‘Fanbots’, all in a bid to improve the atmosphere at their matches.

The promo video for ‘Fanbot – the world’s first cheering robot’ rides high on the emotions involved while watching a match. “Fans of Hanwha Eagles always come to the stadium to cheer for the team,” the video states. “But those who cannot come to the stadium watch the game on the web or on their phones and cheer through commenting online. What if there was a robot cheering for those fans?”

It’s not easy being a fan of the Hanwha Eagles – most fans are subject to ridicule because of the team’s poor performance. The Hanwha Eagles have suffered over 400 losses in the past five years. Fans of the team are regarded with sympathy – they’ve even been dubbed ‘Buddhist Saints’ and ‘Hanwha Chickens’ by fans of other teams. The humiliation has been so great that many fans don’t feel like attending games anymore. Others simply do not have the time.

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Brazilian Man Has 10 Plastic Surgeries to Look Korean

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There’s no denying the fact that many Koreans are obsessed with plastic surgery – some of them will do anything to look more ‘western’. So imagine my surprise when I read about this Brazilian guy who underwent 10 cosmetic procedures to look more Korean! It seems like no one is happy with their own native looks anymore

This man was perfectly good-looking to begin with, but he wanted the Oriental look so bad, he put himself through a series of procedures – silicone implants, lip surgery, and more – that cost him a small fortune. The 25-year-old, from Novo Hamburgo city in southern Brazil, goes by the name Xiahn; he doesn’t want to reveal his true identity to protect his family from internet scrutiny. Xiahn originally had blue eyes and blond hair, a look that he was perfectly happy with until he spent time as an exchange student at Dongseo University in South Korea. It was there that he got bit by the plastic surgery bug.

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South Korean Model Goes under the Knife to Look Like Supermodel Miranda Kerr

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It seems like the Koreans are always in the news for their outrageous plastic surgeries. The latest to get on board is young South Korean model Hong Yuh Reum, who completely changed her face to resemble her idol – supermodel Miranda Kerr.

Reum was recently featured on a Korean TV show called Alien Virus, which features all sorts of unusual guests. She admitted that Kerr was her only inspiration for going under the knife. “It really struck me when I first saw her in a magazine,” said Reum. “She has a baby face but she’s very sexy. I knew I wanted to be like her!”

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Korea’s Most Popular Fermented Fish Dish Smells Like a Public Toilet

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Fermented foods aren’t exactly famous for their alluring smell and flavor, but South Korea’s popular ‘hongeo’ has just got to be the worst of the lot. It’s definitely classified as one of the grossest foods in the world, even for ‘foodie daredevils’ who like trying out weird dishes.

What makes hongeo so bad? Well, for starters, it’s made from a fish called skate, which just like sharks, has no bladder or kidneys. Its digestive waste simply oozes out of its skin in the form of uric acid. That’s why sharks and skates need to be eaten fresh. But the Koreans seem to enjoy defying the norm in this case.

What they do is leave dozens of fresh skates (a cartilage-rich fish that resembles a stingray) stacked up in a walk-in refrigerator. Then they wait, sometimes as long as a month, for the fish to acquire a distinct ‘aroma’, reminiscent of a public urinal. When the smell reaches its worst, the skates are ready to be taken out, sliced up and served raw.

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In South Korea People Check into Prison to Reduce Stress

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Prison would probably be the last place I’d think of checking into to relieve stress, but that’s exactly what hundreds of South Koreans are doing these days.‘Prison Inside Me’ is a stress-reduction center with a penal theme, located on the outskirts of Hongcheon, about 58 miles northeast of Seoul.

Prison Inside Me is the brainchild of 47-year-old Kwon Yong-seok, who was previously a lawyer. “I didn’t know how to stop working back then,” he said. “I felt like I was being swept away against my will, and it seemed I couldn’t control my own life.” That’s when he decided to spend time behind bars. He asked his old acquaintance – a prison governor – if he could spend a week locked up in jail. Although he said it was for ‘therapeutic reasons’, his bizarre request was rejected.

So Kwon decided to take matters into his own hands, and began to make plans for his  prison-like spiritual center. It was ready in June last year, after a year of construction that cost about 2 billion won ($19 million). Kwon managed to cover the cost through loans and donations from friends and relatives. The facility, he said, was not built for profit.

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Mies Container Restaurant – South Korea’s Hooters for Women

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‘Mies Container’ is a strange name for a restaurant. But its theme is unique and refreshing – factory-style décor and extremely good-looking male waitstaff. The restaurant, located in Gangnam District – one of Seoul’s most hip locations – has been dubbed ‘Hooters for Women’. In a city where people are not exactly known for their patience, Koreans are actually waiting in endless lines outside Mies Container – that’s how popular it has become. And about nine out of ten customers are always women!

The atmosphere inside Mies pretty much screams one word – Macho. The open loft structure is constructed like a factory, with the slogan ‘Wipe and Tighten and Oil!’ written on the wall in Korean. They even have numbered construction helmets to identify orders. All the waiters are young and hot (and male), and overly friendly towards customers, especially women.

One waiter was overheard telling a customer: ‘You have excellent taste in picking from the menu.’ Handsome men who are attentive and appreciative? No wonder this place is a hit with the ladies. And the customers aren’t exactly bashful while returning the compliments. There’s a wall right next to the cashier filled with little notes like: ‘Dear hot waiter, please marry me!’ – that’s just one of the decent ones.

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In South Korea People Pay to Watch Live Broadcasts of Other People Gorging on Food

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I’m not sure why, but some of the strangest trends seem to emerge from South Korea. The latest one is dinner porn – people watching other people stuffing themselves with food. The Korean term for it is ‘mok-bang’, which roughly translates as ‘dinner broadcast’.

The dinner porn stars of South Korea film themselves eating copious amounts of food. They also provide moaning noises and a running commentary of their meals. The entire event is live-streamed and the protagonists end up making serious money.

Mok-bang isn’t about people eating a plate or two of food. We’re talking about humongous portions here. Like this one ‘broadcast jockey’ who calls herself The Diva. Consultant by day and food-porn star by night, this beautiful glutton wolfs down two medium pizzas, or 30 fried eggs and a box of crab legs, or five packets of instant noodles in one go. One night, she ate 12 beef patties, 12 fried eggs, three servings of spicy pork kimchi soup and a salad.

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South Koreans Use Bedroom Tents to Keep Warm This Winter

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Indoor tents are all the rage in South Korea this winter. Apparently they keep you really warm and save electricity as well. In fact, some tent-users say their heating bill has been reduced by half. While the temperature in rooms gets as low as 19 degrees Celsius, the 40,000 won (US$37) tents are quite cozy at 23 degrees.

Given their multiple benefits, these tents are flying off shelves in South Korea. One tent maker claims to have sold 4 million in just a couple of weeks. Thousands of tents are on back order, and manufacturers are rushing to make more. We don’t know who came up with the ingenious idea, but it looks like almost everyone has caught on.

This winter has been pretty harsh for the South Koreans; they are facing power blackouts and surging energy costs with six of 23 nuclear reactors being shut down. People have been looking for cheaper heating methods that save electricity, and the tent is apparently working wonders for them. Families are sleeping in tents setup within their homes to keep themselves warm. Some of them have placed tents on top of beds for extra warmth.

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