Dying for a better life: South Koreans fake their funerals for life lessons

SEOUL (Reuters) – A South Korean service is offering free funerals – but only to the living.

More than 25,000 people have participated in mass “living funeral” services at Hyowon Healing Center since it opened in 2012, hoping to improve their lives by simulating their deaths.

“Once you become conscious of death, and experience it, you undertake a new approach to life,” said 75-year-old Cho Jae-hee, who participated in a recent living funeral as part of a “dying well” program offered by her senior welfare center.

Dozens took part in the event, from teenagers to retirees, donning shrouds, taking funeral portraits, penning their last testaments, and lying in a closed coffin for around 10 minutes.

University student Choi Jin-kyu said his time in the coffin helped him realize that too often, he viewed others as competitors.

“When I was in the coffin, I wondered what use that is,” said the 28-year-old, adding that he plans to start his own business after graduation rather than attempting to enter a highly-competitive job market.

South Korea ranks 33 out of 40 countries surveyed in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Better Life Index. Many younger South Koreans have high hopes for education and employment, which have been dashed by a cooling economy and rising joblessness.

“It is important to learn and prepare for death even at a young age,” said Professor Yu Eun-sil, a doctor at Asan Medical Center’s pathology department, who has written a book about death.

In 2016, South Korea’s suicide rate was 20.2 per 100,000 residents, almost double the global average of 10.53, according to the World Health Organization.

Funeral company Hyowon began offering the living funerals to help people appreciate their lives, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation with family and friends, said Jeong Yong-mun, who heads the healing center.

Jeong said he is heartened when people reconcile at a relative’s funeral, but is saddened they wait that long.

“We don’t have forever,” he said. “That’s why I think this experience is so important – we can apologize and reconcile sooner and live the rest of our lives happily.”

Occasionally he has dissuaded those contemplating suicide.

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“I picked out those people who have asked themselves whether … they can actually commit suicide, and I reversed their decision,” Jeong said.

The message of personal value resounded with Choi.

“I want to let people know that they matter, and that someone else would be so sad if they were gone,” he said, wiping away tears. “Happiness is in the present.”

Reporting by Daewoung Kim and Youngseo Choi. Writing by Minwoo Park. Editing by Josh Smith and Karishma Singh

Reuters: Oddly Enough

The Productive Koreans

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The folks from Kotra (the Korean Trade-Investment Promotion Agency) and KOCCA (Korea Creative Content Agency) joined forces to present a showcase of Korean talent this week in Los Angeles. After coming off the busy licensing show in Las Vegas the top Korean studios presented newly debuted and up-coming projects.

Included in the presentations were REDROVER Studios, showcasing their feature co-pro with Canada’s ToonBox Entertainment, The Nut Job 2, which is due to roll out in May 2017. The first Nut Job broke all Korean records for an independent animated feature and the producers have high hopes for #2.

The innovative XrisP Inc.’s CEO Xris Sohn has conquered multi-content creation with their project Nori. Through his namesake app, the multi-talented “rollercoaster boy” can talk, take pictures, and responds remotely through your smartphone or iPad. The company developed the hardware and software, along with the animation, and has signed a significant deal with China and others for distribution of the 3D CGI series.

Prolific AURORA World Corp, following the huge success of YooHoo and Friends, have started to build a new brand called Cuby Zoo. a comic adventure with five core cube-shaped animal characters starting this year with animated 3D CGI production and leading into licensing programs soon. YooHoo will be delivering a new 3D-animated slate of 52 episodes in the fall of 2017, with the theme ‘Treasure Our World.”

Synergy Media is the pioneer of this group, and have been producing and distributing successful content since 2002. Their live-action and CG HD TV series Legend Heroes features a dream battle complete with heroes, a royal seal and magical powers and is all about protecting the happiness of the poor and downtrodden. Their newest series in production this year and next is a 3D/CGI animation series called T-Buster: Five crazy robots land in a little boy’s life from outer space and proceed to disrupt his otherwise quiet existence.

Finally, Tak Toon Entertainment brings The Forks with Spiky Hands. This quirky animated series of shorts and commercials was made in conjunction with the character animation Lab of the GSAIM, Chung-Ang University. Each episode follows the everyday life of Tilly and her spooky family. TakToon’s Galaxy Kids is going strong on KBS and looking for other broadcast partners.

Kotra and KOCCA can be proud of the success of these companies and others, who have certainly flourished and grown under the umbrella of these two successful agencies. Korea has now grown into a country of creative and innovative content producers, who understand their niche in the global marketplace. We look forward to seeing more from them at the coming markets.

K Character Showcase

K Character Showcase

K Character Showcase

K Character Showcase

K Character Showcase

K Character Showcase

Animation Magazine

Some Koreans would give right arm to dodge holiday chores

(Reuters) – Fake casts for pretending you have an injured arm to evade having to help prepare holiday meals have become brisk sellers in South Korea ahead of the Chuseok festival.

“We have been selling this for 10 years now, but sales increased drastically starting last week,” said a sales manager at an online vendor who declined to be identified.

Both men and women were buying the bogus casts, he said.

During Chuseok, a three-day thanksgiving holiday, women traditionally do most of the work in preparing and cooking elaborate ceremonial dishes while the men of the family chat, drink and watch television.

The holiday gender divide is so entrenched that it has spawned the term “daughter-in-law holiday syndrome”, with many young women suffering post-holiday stress and fatigue.

But getting away with the phoney cast ruse may be difficult this year after several media outlets reported on brisk sales of the devices in the run-up to the holiday starting on Sunday.

Data from the Ministry of Gender, Equality, and Family in 2010 showed only 4.9 percent of people surveyed said both genders shared holiday chores, while the rest said women do most of the work.

“Although an increasing number of women are actively engaged in economic activities, a perception remains that only women are responsible for holiday preparation,” said Na-Young Lee, a sociologist at Chung-Ang University.

“We need to try to understand that both men and women are equal beings in working and raising children in a family,” she said.

(Reporting By Kahyun Yang; Editing by Tony Munroe and Robert Birsel)


Reuters: Oddly Enough

Virginia vote on Sea of Japan hands victory to Koreans

Seagulls soar in the sky near Liancourt Rocks, April 21, 2005. The islets are located in disputed waters referred to as the Sea of Japan and the East Sea. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

Seagulls soar in the sky near Liancourt Rocks, April 21, 2005. The islets are located in disputed waters referred to as the Sea of Japan and the East Sea.

Credit: Reuters/Lee Jae-Won

(Reuters) – The state of Virginia on Thursday approved a bill requiring the Korean name – East Sea – for the Sea of Japan to be included in new school textbooks, clearing the last legislative hurdle for an initiative fiercely contested by two of America’s closest allies.

In a 81-15 vote, the House handed a victory to campaigners among Virginia’s estimated 82,000 Korean-Americans and the South Korean government, more than 7,000 milesaway. Virginia’s Senate has already approved the bill.

The two-line bill requiring “that all text books approved by the Board of Education … when referring to the Sea of Japan, shall note that it is also referred to as the East Sea” needs approval by Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, who spoke in favor of the Korean view during his election campaign last year.

Thursday’s vote follows intense lobbying not only by Korean-Americans but the governments of South Korea and Japan over the name for the sea that separates their countries.

Peter Y. Kim, a Virginia resident and president of the Voice of Korean Americans, said he hoped what happened in Virginia would spread.

“I hope that other Korean Americans in other states will try to correct their textbooks,” he said. “It’s not just good for Korean-American children … it’s good for all Americans.”

Japan’s campaign has included warnings that Japanese investment in Virginia could be hurt by a negative outcome, while Japanese officials have voiced concern that what they call a “test case” could spark similar campaigns elsewhere.

Relations are already frayed between Seoul and Tokyo after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a shrine to former military leaders that South Korea said showed a lack of contrition for Japan’s imperialist past.

The name “Sea of Japan” is widely accepted outside of Korea. But it is a source of bitterness for Koreans that the usage became standard worldwide while Korea was under Japanese colonial rule, after the International Hydrographic Organization, or IHO, published its definitive “Limits of the Oceans and the Seas” in 1929.

Japan argues that “Sea of Japan” is recognized by the United Nations and most big states, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany and China. A long Korean campaign has failed to gain much traction.

(Writing by David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by Gunna Dickson)


Reuters: Oddly Enough

South Koreans hope fortune-tellers point way to top of the class

Fortune teller Song Byung-chang looks at a child's fate, or Saju in Korean, at his office in Seoul August 6, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

SEOUL | Tue Sep 3, 2013 2:27pm EDT

(Reuters) – Byun Mi-kyong sat quietly with her hands in her lap as she listened closely to every word the fortune-teller said about her daughter’s chances of getting into the right university.

Dealing with intensely competitive college entrance exams has driven South Korean students to despair, and sometimes to suicide, as they fight for the few places in the best programs that are seen as the key to a successful career.

Anxious parents have long sought hints from fortune-tellers about how well their children will do in school. But now Byun and others are turning to divination for specific guidance on picking the most promising activities, courses and colleges.

In the heat of summer, Byun went to the shaman’s house in Seongnam, a city on the outskirts of Seoul, giving her daughter’s name and date of birth to the softly spoken man dressed in a traditional, white Korean costume.

Alongside a large shrine with golden statues and colorful paintings of deities, she sat across a small table from the shaman as he leafed through the books of his trade.

To Byun’s great relief, he said her daughter would get into her dream university, especially one with a name starting with J, D or K. The 19-year-old wants to go to Joongang, known officially as Chung-Ang University, to study nursing.

“I could not have a heart-to-heart talk with anybody about this but I can speak frankly about what’s in my mind to him,” Byun said after the 10-minute consultation.

“It was a big help to me.”

The shamans, men and women who perform traditional religious rites, say parents asking about their children’s academic and career prospects – at 50,000 to 100,000 won ($ 45 to $ 90) an hour – usually take the advice they get very seriously.

“If I give guidance to parents, they just follow it blindly for their kids,” said professor-turned-shaman Choi Kuing-hun.

RAIN OR SHINE?

Shamans base their recommendations on “saju”, or fate, determined by the four “pillars” of a person’s life: the year, month, day and time of their birth.

Every bit helps, it would seem, when aiming for a spot at university.

Up to 600,000 students take the college entrance exams each year and their preparations are grueling. Teenagers put in long hours as they pack into cram schools after a day of classes.

But the pressure takes its toll. Nearly 40 percent of teenagers said they felt suicidal, according to government data.

Hoping to ease some of the stress, Song Byung-chang has advised nearly 16,000 people over the last 19 years. Parents turn to shamans, he said, because luck plays a big part in a complicated admissions process and his guidance can help families minimize the risks.

“If I have to go to an outdoor event next week, I would probably check the weather forecast,” Song said, adding that fortune-telling “is exactly like that.”

Kim Do-kyung started college preparations early for her 13-year-old son, consulting Song about the boy’s best subjects. Word of success spreads fast among parents keen for any hint of help, she said.

“Many parents come here by word of mouth because some moms said their child did better than expected,” she said.

(Editing by John O’Callaghan and Robert Birsel)


Reuters: Oddly Enough

Take a walk! Koreans reject Cuban ball switch

Fri Feb 22, 2013 3:01am EST

(Reuters) – A baseball game between Cuba’s national team and a South Korean professional club had to be called off when they could not agree on which ball to use, leaving the two sets of players practicing awkwardly next to each other in the stadium, an official from Korea’s NC Dinos has told Reuters.

Cuba were set to play NC Dinos at the Dou Liou Baseball Stadium in Taiwan on Thursday as part of their preparations for the World Baseball Classic, which takes place from March 2-19.

“We have never experienced anything quite like this before,” an NC Dinos official with the team in Taiwan told Reuters by telephone on Friday.

“It is customary for baseball teams from two different countries to have two different balls and to use balls of their choice (when fielding).

“But 40 minutes before the game, Cuba insisted both teams use the ball they chose,” the official added. “We rejected that because our players could get injured by using balls they are not familiar with.

“We could not risk getting injured in a warm-up match like this one. Then they brought another ball, to which we again said no. They didn’t give up and brought another one again and we turned them down once again.

“Finally, about 15-20 minutes before the game, they just abruptly notified us that they cancelled the game.”

The official said Dinos had been taken aback by Cuba’s decision to cancel the game.

“What they insisted was preposterous and goes against normal practice.”

With no game to play, both sets of players started practicing on the field.

“After the game was cancelled at the last minute, our team remained and practiced in the stadium and the Cuban team didn’t leave,” the official added.

“So we practiced there too for a while, the two teams in the same space, until we asked them to leave … it was so awkward.”

Dinos coach Kim Kyung-moon lamented the lost opportunity for his team to play one of the best international sides and said it would have been a valuable experience for his players.

Cuba are placed in Pool A of the WBC alongside champions Japan, Brazil and China.

(Reporting by Narae Kim in Seoul, writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Reuters: Oddly Enough