World / Asia-Pacific

South Korean 'mock funerals' seek to ease life's stresses

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-12-23 22:05

South Korean 'mock funerals' seek to ease life's stresses

Participants dressed in shrouds lie down inside wooden coffins during the “death experience” program at Hyowon Healing Center in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015.[Photo/AP]

Tuesday's service drew 16 people. Before they climbed into their coffins, they listened to a lecture on life and death, watched a TV documentary on a woman dying of a cancer saying farewell to her family, and wrote their own wills.

"I'm so sad. I feel sorry (to my family) that I didn't do anything on my third wedding anniversary and missed a party at my daughter's kindergarten," said Kwon Dae-jung, one of the participants, choked with tears.

Many who join the mock funerals seek relief from the stresses of modern life in South Korea, whose suicide rate tops the developed world. There is widespread tension, especially among young South Koreans, over highly competitive college entrance exams, job searches, long working hours and widening inequality.

But not all is peaceful and contemplative in the mock funeral business. Seoul-based Beautiful Life, which charges up to 50,000 won ($43) per client, says it now has less than 10 customers per month because of competition from Hyowon, which it accuses of copying its idea.

"There should be morality in business," said Kim Giho, the head of Beautiful Life, who plans to sue Hyowon. "That's why I want to strongly deal with them."

Hyowon officials deny the accusation.

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