Monday, August 28, 2006

"Recess" at the pool

The Joongang Daily has a weekly question and answer column that aims to explain cultural, and other, differences between Korea and the rest of the world.

This week's question is about rest periods or recesses at Korean pools. "
Swimmers in the water were asked, or so it seemed, to get out of the pool every hour or so, and the pool remained completely empty for a while. This seemed to repeat all afternoon."

This person must have spent a lot of time just sitting around watching the pool.

I've noticed the same thing. I guess it's fine if you arrive just as the rest period ends but it's darn annoying if you arrive fifteen minutes before it starts. Swim for fifteen minutes, get into a rhythm, then bam! Get out and sit around. Why?
The answer the Joongang gives is the same I've heard at many pools here.
...the recess is for health and safety reasons. A brief rest also can help prevent hypothermia among young children, who tend to stay for a prolonged period of time at play, and also prevent accidental drowning.

"Accidental drowning" Well, I might be curious about the 'accidental' part but I know that some (most of the ones I've visited, but that really isn't a significant number for the country)pools don't have lifeguards on deck much of the time. They sit in the lifeguard office most of the time, so far as I can tell. They are unlikely to be around during a 'deliberate' drowning and need to have the patrons rest because they aren't watching the patrons most of the time.

As for preventing hypothermia, I don't know. It was never an issue in Canadian pools but Koreans are delicate when it comes to hypothermia; witness the occurrence of fandeath here.

Again, if you arrive at exactly the right time, it's no problem. If you start swimming just before rest period, you can't convince the guards that you don't need a rest just yet. Actually, if I want to get a few more laps in, I just flip turn at the wall so they can't talk to me. I pretend I don't know what they're doing for a while.

While I was on vacation in Canada this summer, three or four people died from water-related accidents relatively near my home (nearby towns and districts, not neighbors). I hope to get some actually stats about watersafety here and from home to compare more than anecdotes from the two countries. Drownings don't make the news here so, for all I know, Koreans could have safe, boring swims interrupted every hour for a rest with hardly an accident to be found. Well, I'll be looking and hope to post on the subject in September.


Jon Allen said...

Thanks for the explanation. I went swimming for the first time in Korea last week and I was confused as to why it was "everyone out of the pool". Glad to hear it is some meaningless ritual!

Shame all the outdoor pools are closed already. Today would have been a great day for a swim outside.

Melissa said...

i really like this post, including your (hopefully?) tongue-in-cheek reference to hypothermia and fan death.

and, i'm not sure about the stats on drowning in korea but you can find information on water related deaths in canada here:

basically it states that drownings in canada have been steadily decreasing since 1992.

i recently read "Freakonomics" by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner and in it the authors claim that drownings don't really make the news in america either. they cite statistics from Levitt's study on drownings in the USA and he claims that "if you both own a gun and have a swimming pool in the backyard, the swimming pool is about 100 times more likely to kill a child than the gun is."

scary, but thought provoking, stuff ...

kwandongbrian said...

I agree. The pools close too damn early for me. The weather is fine on Aug 27 but not on Aug 28? I'm aiming for October swims (in the ocean) this year).

Yes, the fandeath comment was purely for comedic effect. Thanks for the link to the red cross. I'm hoping that my wife - at the Korean Coast Guard - can find the relavent Korean stats for me.

Yankabroad said...


When I first came to Korean in '96, drowning was the leading cause of death for Korean males between the ages of 20 and 25 during the summer months in Kangwondo. according to an article published in the Korea Times (I still have the clipping in a scrap book. I keep it next to the one with the headline ("Snow Causes Losses at Area Ski Resorts").

Now, most people can swim, including the lifeguards.