Lonely Planet Writer

Inside South Korea’s newest self-help craze; fake funerals

South Koreans are increasingly holding their own fake funerals to find a deeper meaning and joy in life.

Participants think about their lives as they lie down in a coffin.
Participants think about their lives as they lie down in a coffin. Image by Jean Chung/Getty Images

The fake funerals last about four hours. Participants write out their biography and letters to loved ones. They decide on the words they’d like on their tombstone while looking at the funeral photos they selected.

Later they wrap themselves in linen shrouds and lie in their coffin as they meditate and reflect on their lives. While in the coffin, a ‘death master’ wearing black robes hides their eyes and wraps up their wrists

Participants write their biography.
Participants write their biography. Image by Jean Chung/Getty Images

The latest seminar was held by Happy Dying earlier this week with fifty adults participating, but healing centres for the ‘Well Dying’ movement have been in existence for nearly a year now. They’ve grown so much in popularity that many South Korean companies have been encouraging their employees to participate in fake funerals and even sending them to events.

The bizarre rituals stem from a serious concern. Despite a booming economy and tourism industry, South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, with an average of 43 people taking their own life every day, with many people blaming the high-stress environment Koreans face in the workplace.

ANDONG, SOUTH KOREA - AUGUST 01: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) Participants wearing linen shrouds meditate and reflect on their lives as they lie down in a coffin during a "Death Experience/Fake Funeral" session held by Happy Dying on August 1, 2016 in Andong, South Korea. Fifty adults who work at the Andong University in South Korea participated in the self-help seminar where participants reflect on their lives by experiencing the fake funeral of theirs. (Photo by Jean Chung/Getty Images)
Participants wearing linen shrouds meditate and reflect on their lives as they lie down in a coffin. Image by Jean Chung/Getty Images

While South Koreans are taking certainly taking the idea to a whole new level, thinking about death to enjoy life is not a new concept. Death cafes, where people are encouraged to meet to chat about death, are becoming increasingly popular with venues popping up around Europe, North America and Australia.