In the United States, some prisons have looked to yoga over the past few years as a way to help lower the country’s incredibly high recidivism rate—67% within three years as of 2006—and thus alleviate overcrowding.
The idea is that yoga and meditation can provide inmates with the emotional tools to stay calm and rational in stressful situations, hopefully preventing them from doing something that will land them back in the pen.
One South Korean man, who had been practicing yoga during 23 years of detention, gave support to the assertion that yoga really can help get inmates out of prison when he slipped through a 15-centimeter-high, 45-centimeter-wide (6 x 18 inches) food slot in the bars of his detention cell last week.
50-year-old Choi Gap-bok (hehe, gap, get it?) was arrested on suspicion of robbery on Sept. 12. Known as a yoga master by his friends and acquaintances, Choi had been practicing yoga to keep fit during 23 years on and off in prison.
Choi made his great escape from his detention cell in a police station in Daegu at around 5 a.m. on Sept. 17. While all three police officers on duty were sleeping, the lean-bodied Choi applied skin ointment all over his upper body and squeezed through the tiny food slot in the cell bars in 34 seconds, earning him the nickname “Korean Houdini” by media.
The skin ointment used by Choi, which was also applied around the gap in the bars, was given to him on request by guards.
After slipping his head and neck through the gap, he pulled out his right arm and wiggled his shoulders free. His bottom got stuck halfway through, but he managed to pull it through after pulling down his shorts.
All in 34 seconds.
“He escaped from the prison cell in less than a minute after moving flexibly like an octopus,” a police investigator told reporters after reviewing footage from a prison surveillance camera.
A Korea doctor, puzzled, explains that the average adult male head is larger than 15-centimeres, the height of the gap Choi escaped from, and that his skull should have dented when passing through.
A photo of the food slot
While Choi’s yoga skills allowed him to get out of jail, they weren’t enough to keep him from going back: on Sept. 22, after six days on the run, Choi was apprehended by police on the rooftop of an apartment building in Milyang.
This time Choi is being kept in a cell with a far smaller food slot, measuring 11 centimeters in height and 102.5 centimeters in width. Will the Korean Houdini be able to escape again?