November 11, 2019
A South Korean healing center is offering free funerals—complete with coffins—but only to the living. The practice is believed to increase participants’ desire to live—and to provide a more optimistic perspective on daily existence. And right at the start, there is good news: The mock-funeral experience is free.
According to a report by Reuters, more than 25,000 people have participated in mass “living funeral” services at the Hyowon Healing Center in Yeongdungpo-gu, Seoul for the past seven years. At the center, the process is described as “heal-dying.”
Hyowon began offering the living 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 told Reuters that he is heartened when people reconcile at a relative’s funeral, but is saddened they wait that long. “We don’t have forever,” he said. “That’s why I think this experience is so important – we can apologize and reconcile sooner and live the rest of our lives happily.”
“Once you become conscious of death, and experience it, you undertake a new approach to life,” 75-year-old Cho Jae-hee, who participated in a recent living funeral as part of a “dying well” program offered by her own senior welfare center, told the news outlet.
University student Choi Jin-kyu told Reuters that, during his time in the coffin, he realized that too often, he viewed others as competitors. “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.
South Korea ranks 33 out of 40 countries surveyed in the Organization 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 by a cooling economy and rising joblessness.
“It is important to learn and prepare for death even at a young age,” Professor Yu Eun-sil, a colorectal cancer specialist at Asan Medical Center’s Pathology Department, who has written a book about death, the news outlet said..
Occasionally, Jeong Yong-mun says,he has dissuaded those contemplating suicide.
“I picked out those people who have asked themselves whether … they can actually commit suicide, and I reversed their decision,” Jeong told Reuters.
The message of personal value resounded with Choi.“I want to let people know that they matter, and that someone else would be so sad if they were gone,” he said, wiping away tears. “Happiness is in the present.”
Research contact: @Reuters