S. Koreans Play Dead at 'Coffin Academy'

Self-help tactic controversial in country with high suicide rate
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2010 10:43 AM CST
At the Coffin Academy and similar seminars, participants climb into wooden coffins and lie with their hands folded as if dead.   (Shutter Stock)
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(Newser) – At the Coffin Academy, South Koreans pay $25 each to write their own tombstone epitaphs, bid loved ones goodbye, then climb into caskets in a candlelit chapel and play dead for 10 minutes. The entrepreneurs who guide this death simulation say it motivates people to improve their lives; critics counter it feeds into death fetishism in a country with one of the world's highest suicide rates.

Koreans are so convinced of fake funerals as a booster of productivity that at least one major employer, the Kyobo insurance company, has required all its employees to attend sessions like those at the Coffin Academy. Afterward, participants "feel refreshed," a proponent tells the Los Angeles Times. "You're ready to start your life all over again, this time with a clean slate." But a suicide prevention specialist warns the sessions encourage "fantasies that life in the underworld may be better than real life."

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