Many Elderly Pay for Their Own Funeral in Advance

      May 14, 2016 08:08

      An increasing number of elderly people are preparing for their own funerals to spare their children the cost and headache. The cost can reach W10-20 million (US$1=W1,172).

      A three-day funeral arranged by a funeral parlor costs W13.8 million, according to a poll of 639 people by the Korea Consumer Agency. But a self-arranged funeral costs a mere W700,000 to W3 million if there is no wake and it lasts only a day or two.

      Most customers decide to be cremated, which saves on the cost of a burial plot. "Many children still insist on a funeral home ceremony out of respect for the dead," said Shin Sang-kyung, the owner of a funeral parlor.

      "Many elderly people come to sign contracts for a self-arranged funeral without telling their children."

      Others do it because they have no children. Kim Pyeong-sik, an 80-year-old man who lives alone in Seoul, went to an undertaker late last year to ask to arrange his own burial.

      Some welfare centers for the elderly are helping out. Since 2013, a center in Gwangju has helped any elderly shut-ins fill out funeral directions if they want to. They can write down whom to invite and how to conduct their funeral. Park Jae-hyung at the center said, "At first, only about 80 old people filled out the notes, but now we've had some 800."

      The center will notify a funeral home of the person's wishes when they die and arrange a free funeral if they have no relatives.

      "Self-arranged funerals are natural in Korea, where an increasing number of the elderly people live alone and family ties are loosening," said Suh Yi-jong at Seoul National University. "Another reason for the spread of self-arranged funerals is people's opposition to expensive formal funerals."

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