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Learning to die in South Korea
2015

South Korea holds a sad global record - 39 Koreans comite suicide every day. In this country, which moved from one of the poorest countries in the world to the thirteenth global economic power in a few decades, ceremonies simulating funerals attract more and more people. 

In the Seoul Hyowon Healing Centre, not less than 30 people were trying out the experience of death that day. Any excuse is good to collectively experience the hereafter, from the thirteenth year-old teenager who came there on his own free will to the couple trying to overcome their problems. Sometimes companies organize funeral seminars for their employees.

Among the multitude of coffins, a master of ceremony explaineds with a very well-oiled speech that problems we have to cope with in our daily lives are part of life, and that we must accept them and try to find joy in them.
Then, participants had their (funeral) portrait taken, put on a traditional dress and wrote either their testament or a farewell letter dedicated to their families. They reaped tears – some of them babbling excuses and some others testifying their destructive egoism. Once they were in front of their coffin, clients read aloud their last vows.
The fateful hour came. The master of ceremony pointed out that it is now time to go to the other side. A Korean angel of death wearing an ad hoc costume made an entrance. Under canddle light participants lay down in their coffin that the angel closed onto them. The experience lasts ten minutes.

South Korea was swiftly shooted out into modernity. Seeking at all costs social acknowledgment in a ultra-competitive society where the successes of Samsung and LG have been raised as a reference, many Koreans have forgotten to build their own identity.
In a society which went from collectivism to individualism, less than a third of the population continue to think it is normal to financially help their ancestors, according to a recent survey from the national statistic office. Confronted to this new sollitude and to a deficient welfare system - almost half of the ederly population is living in a precarious situation – seniors comite suicide four times more in Korea than in any other OCDE country.

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