DR & AJU Partner Kwon Yongsuk and his wife theater director Noh Jihyang opened their Happitory retreat in 2013. The motivation came at the end of the last millennium as Mr. Kwon was feeling overwhelmed by his work as a prosecutor. He jokingly asked judicial acquaintances to place him in solitary confinement, so he could have time to ponder his present situation isolated from the pressures of work and family.
The couple put their life savings into the modern, aesthetically pleasing complex in the countryside by Hongcheon, Gangwon-do (90 minutes east of Seoul). They also received donations from friends and colleagues that supported their vision of “a healing center for people feeling a lot of stress.” Law Firm DR & AJU and several of its attorneys’ names appear on the wall of donors.
Happitory also offers its facilities to help rehabilitate juvenile offenders – a cause the firm supports (see related story). In March and April, DR & AJU is simultaneously promoting Happitory and staff well-being by covering costs for employees wishing to experience the 24-hour program.
At the 11 am orientation on Saturday, after donning “prison” uniforms tagged with their names and cell numbers, guests introduce themselves and learn tips for stimulating healthy thinking via meditation and bowing. An organic all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet follows. The healthy food is to improve the body’s functioning. After lunch, guests are shown to their sparse but comfortable 1.5-pyeong (about 5 meter-square) cells and locked in until 9:45 am Sunday. A light dinner and breakfast is delivered through a slot at the bottom of the door. The facility has its own well water which the interned can access through a sink in their cells. Green tea is also available, as is a tiny toilet room.
If there is a family emergency, relatives could reach guests through a phone number provided by Happitory at the time of reservation. Also, there is a panic button and means of escape available to anyone wanting out fast. “Every guest has completed the full program,” Mr. Kwon says, adding proudly, “Some returning guests seem addicted to the experience.” The website posts visitor testimonials [all in Korean]. DR & AJU’s Kim Jong Sook agrees with many of them. The head of the Criminal Division’s executive assistant pool attended March 25-26: “Out in nature with healthy meals, I had a nice rest from my thousands of complicated daily thoughts."