Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Reflexology Paths of Korea

The tourists who pass by them in the city parks of South Korea call them reflexology paths. But, to the people of South Korea what the tourists have just seen are barefoot parks with a barefoot shiatsu course. Some would say it’s a matter of semantics, that these look pretty much like “reflexology paths.” What’s really going on, however, is far more interesting than use of words. The paths, by any name, are a means of “well walking,” working toward health, as defined by the country’s traditions and trends.

An overview of the country’s use of foot-related therapies (shall we call them) reveals a deep entrenchment in uses for the country’s health care, so deep that precise language is utilized. Reflexology is viewed as the targeting of specific areas of the feet and hands. Korean nursing schools and journals are at the forefront of research into reflexology. By one calculation, some 59 research studies have been published in nursing journals or as graduate school thesis and dissertations in the past twenty years. Nineteen studies available in English, are discussed at the Kunz & Kunz Web site. (See. Topics for research cross all age groups and show possible uses within the medical system including: college-aged, middle-aged and elderly women as well as stroke and hemodialysis patients. Hand, foot and self-help reflexology are each tested.

Walking barefoot in the landscaped, forested or mountainous areas of city parks and national parks is a popular trend to “promote” one’s health. For some paths, a scenic overlook, sculptures or a lake is featured or a Buddhist temple is the destination. A “barefoot park” designation indicates that paths appropriate for barefoot walking are available. At least 22 parks within the city of Seoul are barefoot parks.

“Barefoot shiatsu courses” are found at many of the “barefoot parks.” For example, a Boramae Park, a large Seoul city park is described with: “Major facilities include a lawn, a pond, greenbelt and other facilities and bare(foot) landscape parks, swimming pools, tennis courts, gymnasium and sports facilities, a zoo, Boramae Youth Center.”

Elements underfoot vary from course to course but common ones include: cobblestone, black and white pebbles, sand, gravel, crushed yellow soil, rounded rock halves in a bed of gravel, rounded concrete halves and brick-sized blocks in gravel. Some report the inclusion of up to 28 different kinds of rocks. A design seen frequently—and unique to South Korea—is an embedded stone walkway with the sole of a foot in a color of stone different from that of the path as a whole. ($01&a=v&l=4508&id=200508270057) Some paths include beginner, intermediate and expert sections or courses specifically for children. At times a reflexology chart will be posted to show “How is this connected to the foot and body parts.”
Barbara Kunz

1 comment:

pgd said...

I'm currently living in South Korea and absolutely LOVE these barefoot rock paths. They're like free massages! Hope you don't mind my linking this to my blog... Thank you!