Dying for a better life: South Koreans fake their funerals for life Courses
A South Korean service is offering free funerals – but only to the living.
More than 25,000 individuals have participated in mass”living funeral” services at Hyowon Healing Center. Since it opened in 2012, hoping to better their lives by simulating their deaths.
“Once you become aware of death, and experience it, you undertake a fresh approach to life,” said 75-year-old Cho Jae-hee. Who participated in a current surviving funeral as part of a”dying well” program offered by her senior welfare center.
Dozens took part in the event, from teenagers to retirees, donning shrouds, taking funeral portraits, penning their last testaments, and lying in a closed coffin for around 10 minutes.
University student Choi Jin-kyu said his time at the coffin helped him realize that too often, he saw others as rivals.
“When I was in the coffin, I wondered what use that is,” said the 28-year-old. Adding that he plans to start his own business after graduation rather than attempting to enter a highly-competitive job market.
Better Life Index
South Korea ranks 33 out of 40 countries surveyed in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Better Life Index. Many younger South Koreans have high hopes for education and employment, which have been dashed with a cooling market and rising joblessness.
“It is important to learn and prepare for death even at a young age,” said Professor Yu Eun-sil, a physician at Asan Medical Center’s pathology department, who has written a book about death.
In 2016, South Korea’s suicide rate was 20.2 per 100,000 residents, almost twice the global average of 10.53, according to the World Health Organization.
Funeral company Hyowon began offering the dwelling funerals to help people appreciate their lives. And seek forgiveness and reconciliation with family and friends, said Jeong Yong-mun, who heads the healing center.
Jeong said he’s heartened when folks reconcile at a relative’s funeral but are saddened they wait that long.
“We do not have forever,” he said. “That’s why I feel this experience is so important – we can apologize and reconcile sooner and live the rest of our lives happily.”
Occasionally he has dissuaded those contemplating suicide.
“I chose out those men and women who have asked themselves if… they can actually commit suicide, and I reversed their decision,” Jeong said.
The message of personal value resounded with Choi.
“I want to let folks know that they matter and that someone else would be so sad when they were gone,” he said, wiping away tears. “Happiness is in the present.”