“Well-dying course” in South Korea includes test run in a coffin

By Reuters Staff
July 7, 2011

(A woman, donning a traditional yellow hemp robe, lies down in a coffin during a "well-dying? course in Seoul July 4, 2011/Truth Leem)

At age 62, Ha Yu-soo had begun to feel his mortality, wondering about the timing of death’s soft tap on the shoulder. But why wait, he thought. Maybe he could take a test run. Ha donned a traditional yellow hemp robe, lay down inside a casket and felt at peace — until the somber, dark-suited attendants placed a lid on the coffin. Then Ha realized his worst fear: the eternal darkness had finally come.

“How grateful I was that this was a fake funeral, not real,” he said with a sigh of relief. “There’s but one step from life to death but the difference is huge,” Ha, a fire protection system inspector, told Reuters.

Ha joined around 70 other people on a “well-dying” course, run by a local district office in the northeast of Seoul. The course’s motto: “Don’t take life for granted.”

Baek Sung-ok, an ovarian cancer patient who opted out of chemotherapy several years ago, said the experience of being in a coffin made her feel more appreciative of those around her. “I will abandon greed to relate to my husband and love my daughters more,” she said, rising from the casket.

Another activity is penning farewell letters. “Even if I no longer exist here, please get along with your siblings and be more selfless,” Kim Young-sook wrote to her four children.

Read the full story by Ju-min Park here.

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