Hyowon is not your run of the mill funeral company. In addition to traditional ceremonies, they also offer mass funerals for the living.
Participants in the living funeral service wear traditional burial clothes. First, they take funeral photos. Next, they are led up a dark staircase by a man dressed as a Korean grim reaper. They enter a room filled with coffins and chrysanthemums. Next, they write a will, including messages to their loved ones. They also write personal letters to their family, expressing their love and hopes for happiness for those they leave behind. Regrets and pleas for forgiveness are also common themes. Some choose to read their messages aloud to the group. And finally, after their goodbyes are said, the living dead lie in their coffins and the lights go out…for 10 minutes, that is. Unlike the real thing, second chances are guaranteed at the Hyowon Healing Center. When the lights come on and the coffins open, the organizer says, “Leave all the bad things that make your life miserable and hard in the afterlife.”
Looking at the numbers, Hyowan is providing a service that people want. So far, over 25,000 people have participated in their own mock funerals. However, Hyowon is not looking to make a quick buck. They provide their living funeral for free.
People come to the living funeral for different reasons. Some are suicidal, while others are sick and preparing for imminent death. Others are healthy, but looking for a new lease on life. The director says the purpose of the living funeral is for families to reconcile and heal old wounds. And he also hopes for people to realize that life is precious.
One man told the Korea Biomedical Review about how his experience was profound. He said, “I realized the importance of life…I want to go home soon and see the faces of my family. From now on, I will express my love for them more frequently.”