Fake funerals for the living

Imagine stepping into your coffin, lying down, and having the cover closed so you are lying in the quiet dark. Sounds like a terrifying experience, but many in South Korea are signing up to take part in just such a mock funeral.

What’s the idea behind this practice? For those who are facing a terminal illness, it’s a way to sidle up to death. For those who have struggled with suicidal tendencies, it’s a way to re-engage with life. And some businesses use it as a motivational tool for their workers, to help shift perspectives away from stress.

Before stepping into their coffin, participants write their last testament—many of them tearfully, according this report from the New York Times— and then don the traditional South Korean funeral shroud.  Once they’ve arranged themselves in their coffin, a man representing the Angel of Death hammers in the nails that close the coffin.

Then the participants face the idea of death, in the dark, with no way out. Traditional Korean funerals last three days, but fortunately this experiment ends after ten minutes.

Once the coffins are open there is great relief in the room. According to the New York Times article:

“Most participants say they feel strangely refreshed afterward, gaining a new perspective on the things that matter in life.”

A fake funeral leads to real engagement with life? Sounds good to us.