Monday 22 May 2017

South Korean companies make staff attend their own mock funerals to curb suicide rate

Employers in the Asian nation are going to extraordinary lengths to combat the country's high suicide rate

In a large room in a nondescript modern office block in Seoul, staff from a recruitment company are staging their own funerals Photo: Steve Evans / BBC News
In a large room in a nondescript modern office block in Seoul, staff from a recruitment company are staging their own funerals Photo: Steve Evans / BBC News
Staff from a recruitment company are staging their own funerals Photo: Steve Evans / BBC News
Dressed in white robes, they sit at desks and write final letters to their loved ones Photo: Steve Evans / BBC News
Tearful sniffling becomes open weeping, barely stifled by the copious use of tissues Photo: Steve Evans / BBC News
Dressed in white robes, they sit at desks and write final letters to their loved ones Photo: Steve Evans / BBC News

Rozina Sabur

It is often said you never know what you have until it is gone - but employers in South Korea are going to extraordinary lengths to avoid just that.

With the highest suicide rate in the developed world, some Korean companies are taking a novel approach to the issue by making staff attend heir own mock funerals.

Staff from a recruitment company are staging their own funerals Photo: Steve Evans / BBC News
Staff from a recruitment company are staging their own funerals Photo: Steve Evans / BBC News

In Seoul, the Hyowon Healing Centre is running sessions which promise to leave those who attend them reflecting on the meaning of life.

The process involves a group of employees writing farewell letters to loved ones before getting into their very own wooden coffins. They lie down in their casket, hugging a picture of themselves, draped in black ribbon.

Dressed in white robes, they sit at desks and write final letters to their loved ones Photo: Steve Evans / BBC News
Dressed in white robes, they sit at desks and write final letters to their loved ones Photo: Steve Evans / BBC News

A man representing the angel of death - dressed in black with a tall hat – closes each coffin leaving those inside to reflect on how they have spent their time on earth.

The unusual exercise is designed to help people come to terms with their own obstacles, Jeong Yong-mun, who runs the Hyowon Centre, told the BBC.

Tearful sniffling becomes open weeping, barely stifled by the copious use of tissues Photo: Steve Evans / BBC News
Tearful sniffling becomes open weeping, barely stifled by the copious use of tissues Photo: Steve Evans / BBC News

He took his inspiration from his previous position in a funeral company, and with an estimated 40 suicides in South Korea a day, it just might provide the answer to the crisis.

The Korean Neuropsychiatric Association found that a quarter of those it surveyed suffered from high stress levels, with work related anxiety cited as a prime cause.

Dressed in white robes, they sit at desks and write final letters to their loved ones Photo: Steve Evans / BBC News
Dressed in white robes, they sit at desks and write final letters to their loved ones Photo: Steve Evans / BBC News

Park Chun-woong's recruitment company is one of several that has been staging staff funerals at the Hyowon Centre. "Our company has always encouraged employees to change their old ways of thinking, but it was hard to bring about any real difference," he told the BBC.

"I thought going inside a coffin would be such a shocking experience, it would completely reset their minds for a completely fresh start in their attitudes."

The macabre routine is designed to teach the employees to appreciate what they have, underscored by videos showing those less fortunate overcoming challenge.

One video shows a terminal cancer sufferer in her final days; another shows someone born without all their limbs learning to swim.

"After the coffin experience... I hope to be more passionate in all the work I do and spend more time with my family," said one employee, Cho Yong-tae.

Mr Park has also introduced a daily communal laughing session for staff. "I think it really does have a positive influence," he said. "There's so little to laugh about in a normal office atmosphere, I think this kind of laughter helps."

Telegraph.co.uk

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