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South Koreans Are Now Holding ‘Mass Funerals’ to Teach Life Lessons to the Living

One of the activities makes participants lie down inside a closed coffin.

by Edoardo Liotta
11 November 2019, 4:00am

Stills from VICE video 'A Good Day to Die: Fake Funerals in South Korea'

This article originally appeared on VICE Asia

Funerals are usually for honouring the dead but in South Korea, some are holding them to celebrate the living.

Seoul-based funeral company Hyowon Healing Center has been organising mass funerals for the living since 2012, Reuters reported. They say simulating deaths can improve people’s lives.

After participating in one of the funerals as part of a program at his senior welfare center, 75-year-old Cho Jae-hee told Reuters that “once you become conscious of death, and experience it, you undertake a new approach to life.”

During the funeral, dozens of people — from teenagers to senior citizens — wear shrouds, take funeral portraits, and write their last testaments. It ends with guests lying in a closed coffin for 10 minutes.

Lying in a coffin helped 28-year-old Choi Jin-kyu realise that he often viewed others as competition. “When I was in the coffin, I wondered what use that is,” said Choi, a university student.

Leader of the Hyowon Healing Center, Jeong Yong-mun, said that they started the funerals for the living to encourage people to appreciate their lives, ask for forgiveness, and reconcile with loved ones.

“We don’t have forever… That’s why I think this experience is so important — we can apologise and reconcile sooner and live the rest of our lives happily,” he said.

In 2017, suicide was the number one cause of death among young people in South Korea, The Korea Herald reported. It has been a leading cause of death among young people since 2007. Jeong said that through their funerals, they were able to stop people from committing suicide.

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