"Prison Inside Me" facility hosts mostly workers and students willing to spend 24 hours in solitary confinement to escape the country's infamously demanding work culture.
For most people, prison is a place to escape from. But some South Koreans looking for a break from life's demands, a 24-hour stay at a faux prison is the escape.
"Ironically, this prison gives me a sense of freedom," said Park Hye-ri, a 28-year-old office worker who recently paid $90 to lock herself in a mock prison facility in Hongcheon, in northeast South Korea.
Since opening in 2013, the "Prison Inside Me" facility has hosted more than 2,000 customers, mostly stressed out workers and students willing to spend 24 hours in solitary confinement to escape South Korea's infamously demanding work and academic culture.
"I was too busy," Park said, sitting in a 4.9 square metre cell. "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."
With rules banning any kind of communication, mobile phones, clocks, or even mirrors in the cells, customers said the solitude allowed them to concentrate better than if they rested at home or went on vacation.
According to the data of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), South Koreans worked 2,024 hours in 2017, putting in the third longest hours among the 36 members of the OECD, behind Mexico and Costa Rica.
Since last July, the South Korean government has cut working hours to 52 per week from the previous 68, however, the policy has drawn some criticism from both employers and employees who say its standards are vague.
In a highly competitive society, more than 12,000 South Koreans committed suicide last year, according to Korean Statistical Information Service. South Korea's suicide rate was the second highest in the OECD in 2016 – almost double the rate of the United States and more than triple that of Britain.
Co-founder Noh Ji-hyang said part of the inspiration for the mock prison was a remark by her husband, a local prosecutor who often put in 100 hours per week at work.
"My husband said he would rather go into solitary confinement for a week to take a rest," she said, "After a stay in the prison, people say 'this is not a prison, the real prison is where we return to.'"