Markets in everything, South Korean faux funeral edition

by on January 4, 2010 at 11:35 am in Economics | Permalink

Jung, a slight 39-year-old with an undertaker's blue suit and a
preacher's demeanor, is a resolute counselor on the ever-after who
welcomes clients with the invitation, "OK, today let's get close to
death."

Jung runs a seminar called the Coffin Academy, where,
for $25 each, South Koreans can get a glimpse into the abyss. Over four
hours, groups of a dozen or more tearfully write their letters of
goodbye and tombstone epitaphs. Finally, they attend their own funerals
and try the coffin on for size.

In a candle-lighted chapel, each
climbs into one of the austere wooden caskets laid side by side on the
floor. Lying face up, their arms crossed over their chests, they close
their eyes. And there they rest, for 10 excruciating minutes.

"It's
a way to let go of certain things," says Jung, a former insurance
company lecturer. "Afterward, you feel refreshed. You're ready to start
your life all over again, this time with a clean slate."

Across
South Korea, a few entrepreneurs are conducting controversial forums
designed to teach clients how to better appreciate life by simulating
death. Equal parts Vincent Price and Dale Carnegie, they use mortality
as a personal motivator for a variety of behaviors, from a healthier
attitude toward work to getting along with family members.

Many
firms here see the sessions as an inventive way to stimulate
productivity. The Kyobo insurance company, for example, has required
all 4,000 of its employees to attend fake funerals like those offered
by Jung.

The full article is here and I thank Kaylin Wainwright and Daniel Lippman for the pointers.  Here is an earlier MR post on how contemplating mortality changes your behavior.

anon January 4, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Everything new is old. Catholics call this “Confession” and “the Sacrament of Reconciliation”

But I’m not sure you could sell Catholic Sacraments as the latest management fad….

Seppo January 4, 2010 at 3:22 pm

I know several people who were profoundly changed by near death experiences that broke beyond the normal barriers they had lived with to avoid thinking deeply about their own mortality. All those experiences were involuntary, and the change in perspective and life priorities have to date appeared to be deep-rooted.

I’m not sure that a voluntary and clearly benign association with the customs of death would have as deep and lasting impression of most people’s life paths.

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