Here in South Korea, being conscious of death and living it through helps you enhance the quality of life. Hundreds of people, from teenagers to retirees, take part in a wide-scale "living funeral" each year. During such events, participants take funeral pictures, write letters to their loved ones, autobiographies, and their last wills. Afterward, they wear linen shrouds and lay in a sealed coffin to meditate and reflect on their lives. While in the coffin, a 'death master' covers their eyes and wraps their wrists. Fake funerals last for about four hours.
South Korea has ranked 1st among OECD countries in suicide rates for more than 10 consecutive years. Social pressure is one of the key factors. A significant number of young South Koreans have huge expectations for education and employment, which have been shattered by a cooling economy and subsequent rising unemployment.
This social issue led to an idea of learning and preparing for death at a young age, no matter how cruel that might sound. The funeral companies started offering so-called mock funerals to help people value their lives and seek mercy and reconciliation with friends and family. Those who lived through this "deathly" experience say they reconsidered their lives.
There are multiple companies offering fake funeral services across South Korea. The Hyowon Healing Center in Seoul is one of the most well-known places. It is backed financially by a funeral service company; thus, the fake funeral experience at the center is free of charge. After a short lecture and introduction video, participants are taken into a dimly lit hall adorned with chrysanthemums. They sit by their casket, often with tears in their eyes, and write their last testament. Then they put on burial shrouds and lie down in the coffins for about ten minutes.
Thinking about death to enjoy life is not a new concept. Numerous death cafes gained popularity around North America, Europe, and Australia. In such places, people are encouraged to chat about death openly.