A Good Death for Completion of a Life Lived Well
After the well-being fad swept the country, more and more people are beginning to take an interest in "well-dying," making preparations for a dignified death. There are several institutes opening classes on well-dying for ordinary citizens, from Korea Life Consulting (KLC), which is a corporation, to middle and high schools, welfare centers and religious institutions. The welfare foundation of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and the Christian Kakdang welfare center even opened a course for well-dying education professionals.
Well-dying can be seen as the next step towards well-being, as it sees dying with dignity as the completion of a life lived well. The well-dying movement tells people to accept death as part of natural process, and prepare for its inevitable end. Noh Ki-hwa (50), who took a course on well-dying at the Beautiful Foundation last year, says she discovered a readiness to say goodbye to her past, after she became directionless when her husband died, and found a determination to live well again.
Noh said each participant shared their experience on death, and listening to her peers' stories helped her to get over the thought that she would die after her husband. She is now more than ever committed to volunteer work, and decided to donate at least 1 percent of her assets after her death.
Well-dying education even helps those who chose to commit suicide. A 43-year-old woman identified as Jang attempted suicide twice because of financial difficulties. But she met others in a well-dying program who also had attempted suicide. Jang said she realized that suicide was a stupid choice to make, and felt a sense of catharsis by sharing her story with other people who sympathized with her.
The well-dying program is not limited to senior citizens. Oh Jin-tak teaches thanatology in Hallym University every year in the undergraduate program. Osan High School in Seoul runs a four-hour program on death preparation -- "Understanding Death," "Writing Will and Epitaph" and "Experiencing Death" are some of the topics. Many participating students say they have developed stronger attachment to life after taking part in the course.
According to the KLC, many large corporations including Samsung Electronics, Samsung Heavy Industries, Kyobo Securities and Hyundai Motor send their staff on death experience programs, offering them a chance to reflect and develop their talents.
Ha Ji-hyun at Konkuk University Medical Center said well-dying education reduces fantasies or unreal fears about death, and helps them overcome depression by assisting them in accepting death with dignity.
However, Kwak Keum-joo, a psychologist at Seoul National University points out that although increased interest in dying is a natural phenomenon as life expectancy rises, Koreans tend to become obsessive about new trends. Kwak warns that ceremonial death experience events could have a boomerang effect, strengthening the obsession with death.