There has been an alarming rise in the number of people committing suicide in South Korea, so the Asian country is taking desperate measures in order to control the numbers.
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The numbers compared to other nations are particularly noticeable. South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates among developed nations. There are as many as 40 people who kill themselves each day because of various reasons.
There is a bigger chance for college students to commit suicide compared to those middle-aged or elderly. But we cannot rule out that age group as there are still numerous cases of adults who end their lives because they cannot keep up with financial demands.
The Seoul Hyowon Healing Center in the nation’s capital is trying to address those issues, but they seem to have a rather odd way of doing it. They have set up a “death experience” school so people can experience what it would be like to be dead. Founders behind the idea are hoping that the experiment with death will save more lives.
Students enrolled here are teenagers facing difficulties in school. They also range to parents and elderly who deal with depression, stress, and struggles brought about by society.
A series of photos taken by French photographer Françoise Huguier show how a typical day at Hyowon Healing Center goes.
The students are made to act out their own funeral, in hopes they will find that there is more to life than what they think. The head of the center, Mr. Jeong Yong-mun, a former employee of a funeral company informs the students about overcoming their daily trials.
The process is simple. Lined in the classroom are wooden caskets and desks. The students are made to take funeral photos and sign fake wills. They are also made to watch and listen to an emotional speech about suicide, the way it affects not only their lives but the lives of those they left behind. They are then made to dress in traditional funeral garb and placed in a coffin after reading the farewells they penned.
The students are to stay in a coffin for 10 long minutes, getting different reactions from each participant. Many were emotional, others were claustrophobic, while some felt like a weight was lifted off their shoulder.
The financial boom in Korea has come as a double-edged sword. Many feel the pressure of making ends meets. Adolescents want to make sure they get the best grades possible so they can compete in the market.
The students are faced with the reality of death, that if you choose to cut it suddenly, you are not just ending your pain but beginning someone else’s. They are subjected to the oblivion of the afterlife.
During the ten minutes, a man dressed as the Korean Angel of Death enters the room to close the lid as the students venture into the “next life.” They are encouraged at the same time to contemplate on their lives and reflect on how the people outside their coffins would feel about losing them.
Each part of the world has a different approach in addressing suicide. In Ukraine, a man used coffin therapy to let people know what it feels like to be dead. Also using a similar method is China, where patients have a coffin’s lid shut so they can feel reborn.
Many students who partook in the death school felt renewed by the experience.
After the session, Jeong Yong-mun speaks to them, saying these strong words: “You have seen what death feels like, you are alive, and you must fight!”