Tension on the Korean Peninsula is almost tangible due to the North Korean threats of nuclear war. Additionally, many in South Korea reportedly lament the state of socioeconomic inequality in the country, a broad assortment of barriers. With all these and other pressures on Koreans today, citizens have been finding innovative ways to channel their frustration and relieve some of their stress. It’s called the Seoul Rage Room, and it’s a place people come simply to smash mostly household items with other household items.
Customers at Seoul Rage Room wear protective gear, and that usually means a plastic poncho of sorts with a safety helmet. They occasionally or, perhaps, upon request provide earplugs as well. The room is sealed off with wooden barriers, and customers are brought in to do little more than relieve their anger and frustration by smashing things. The room houses home appliances, ceramics, tires, rubber mannequins, hammers and baseball bats. It usually fosters a cacophony of items breaking, people screaming and intermittent laughter.
Victoria Won, owner of Seoul Rage Room, says, “Several thousand people have visited us since we opened in April,” and she refers to the exercises people get to do there as treatments. It’s loosely based on the findings of a formal study conducted in 2015. She says the so-called vandalism treatment is the most moderate, giving you ten minutes to smash ten ceramic plates however you like, among other things, and it costs 20,000 won — the equivalent of about $18.87 USD or £13.90 GBP. Customers have the option, though, of choosing the madness treatment, too, and it costs 180,000 won. For that £125.09 GBP, you get unlimited ceramics along with an appliance, which is usually an old computer monitor, TV or printer.
Most of these customers are young adults in their 20s and 30s according to Victoria Won. “We hope people are less stressed when they leave the room,” she explains. Customers reportedly find it to be exciting but also effective at assuaging stress. “We just had a final exam earlier today and wanted to try this,” one customer, Choi Soo-jeong said. She’s from Suwon in the Gyeonggi Province, and she came with her boyfriend recently. He had found out about it from a YouTube video. “We were curious about the place but we wanted to relieve our stress in a different way,” Choi said.
Choi explained that stress was swallowing her whole due to obligations both at school and at work. “I feel refreshed after breaking the ceramics and bashing things up.” This continually draws on data from a 2015 study conducted by the Neuro-Psychiatric Association. It found that nearly half of Korean adults show signs of anger management issues, and it added that about ten percent were in need of professional therapy. The youth in South Korea are actually every bit the poster boys and girls that the elders are according to the Korea Health Promotion Institute who reported that twice as many Korean students are discontent with life as what the OECD average indicates.
To some degree, it’s partly attributable to ongoing tensions with North Korea. On Jan. 6, 2018, in fact, negotiators from both ends of the peninsula met in a building on the border for the first time in two years. It was a meeting that many watching the world stage and events unfolding in the Pacific theater view as the result of what CNN calls a “breakthrough call” between Pyongyang and Seoul a week before. The ROK had two Unification Ministry employees calling Pyongyang every day repeatedly at 9 AM and 4 PM. They were never answered until being unexpectedly answered last week.
This is the first relief in the tensions on the peninsula to be seen in years, some might say, and in tandem with the tête-à-tête between Pyongyang and Washington as of late, has brought a great deal of attention to the Unification Ministry lately. Tensions of this magnitude with a country that is daily bandying nuclear warheads about and touting the might of its arsenal are certainly more than enough to crush someone at times. That same 2015 study from the Korean Psychiatric Association was cited to substantiate the claim that unresolved anger is ubiquitous and replete with the potential for violence.
This was prompted most recently by a man being sentenced to life in prison in Ulsan in December 2017 for murdering a maintenance man in the apartment building by cutting the rope that suspended him while he worked. The killer’s explanation was that he just couldn’t take the victim’s smartphone music anymore. His case is cited in relation to the 2015 study, and the two are cited in the contexts of severe stress. Additionally, a 2016 International Monetary Fund report found income inequality in the Asia-Pacific region to be worst in South Korea.
The Joongang Tongyang Broadcasting Company used an online survey to reach some 21,000 young respondents. Of those youngsters, 88 percent said they hate their country and contemplate emigrating elsewhere. It also found that 93 percent said that they are ashamed to be South Korean. These youngsters were defined in their youth by being under the age of 35 but still within adult age ranges. The studies covered salient metrics that revealed the extent to which these stressors weigh on people in South Korea.