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Pursuits
Wellness

Why ‘Hitting Mung’ May Be the Key to a Much-Needed Mental Reboot

This South Korean trend ties together our current crisis of attention with ancient techniques of mindfulness.
relates to Why ‘Hitting Mung’ May Be the Key to a Much-Needed Mental Reboot

Illustration: Grace J. Kim for Bloomberg Businessweek.

For the past few months, South Koreans have been catching an unusual movie in theaters: Flight, a 40-minute video of nothing more than clouds, viewed from the window of a plane. It’s the sequel to a 31-minute film of a campfire.

These screenings revolve around a single goal: hitting mung. Mung is a catchall term for a centuries-old idea, says Sung-Ae Lee, a lecturer at Sydney’s Macquarie University and an expat who tracks South Korean pop culture. Koreans are reclaiming the somewhat derogatory term, once translated as “empty-headed,” to suggest a proactive blankness that’s an antidote for a mind stuck in perpetual overdrive. It’s akin to meditation but with the added influence of nature.