To Live Better, Die Well

Perhaps some of our Korean correspondents might like to weigh on in this odd practice.


  1. Charles says

    Not sure if I qualify as a “Korean correspondent,” since I’m not Korean, but this is the first I’ve heard of this. Describing it as a “new trend” might be going a bit overboard. At best, it’s probably an extremely niche fad.

    As for what I think about it, well, I must say that my thoughts are mixed. On the one hand, I think the underlying principle is a good idea. That is, we all need to appreciate life more and stop taking so many things for granted. I have questions about the way this principle is put into practice, though. The act of putting someone in a coffin and nailing it shut seems excessively macabre and possibly dangerous. Perhaps nothing will go wrong when the ceremony is being performed by a company that charges hundreds of dollars for it, but what happens when a bunch of university students decide to save some money by doing it themselves. What if something goes wrong?

    Beyond the possible dangers of being nailed into a coffin while still living, I think that this is something of an unnecessary gimmick. A little self-imposed, continual meditation can accomplish the same thing–it might be more difficult, but it will be more effective and longer lasting. I’m sure the experience of being placed in a coffin and having that coffin nailed shut is powerful, but these things have a way of fading. The day after the experience, the student will likely still be moved. A week later, the experience will still be relatively fresh in the mind. But a month later? A year later? Not so much. Appreciating life is not something that suddenly happens and then continues for the rest of our lives. It’s not like you turn on a switch and there is light, and that light stays with you. It’s more like a generator hooked up to an exercise bicycle, and if you want light you’d better keep pedaling.

    Bottom line: it’s a convenient experience for those looking for a quick fix and a good money maker for those looking to profit off of those looking for a quick fix. Invest in some comfortable cushions and a quiet place and you’ll be much better off.

    My favorite line of the article: “Real death is totally different than this,” said Chung Jae-hyun…

    Ya think?

    Closing thought: If I had a dollar for every time I wanted to kill someone upon hearing/reading the term “well-being,” I could sleep in a solid gold coffin.

    Posted January 13, 2008 at 7:49 pm | Permalink
  2. Charles says

    Crap… sorry for the double comment here, but I just realized that I’m being forced to do that little image recognition thing again. I guess it’s not keeping me logged in. Would it be possible to add a “sign in” link somewhere near the comment form? There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get to the login page.

    Posted January 13, 2008 at 7:52 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Hi Charles,

    Thanks for responding. By Korean correspondents I meant you expats as well, of course.

    I suppose that there might be some risks, as you say, if this becomes, say, a popular frat-party activity. Folks might be reminded to drill a few air holes; if that diminishes the effect, they could call them “wormholes”.

    I also loved that Mr. Chung felt it necessary to remind people that the real thing might be a little different (though how does he know? Perhaps when we die for real we pop out of a wooden coffin in Korea, and are presented a bill for $325). My own guess is that the real thing isn’t like anything at all.

    Like you, I was also rather touched by the naiveté of 23-year-old Ms. Lee, who is now going to live the rest of her life in such a way as to have no regrets. Again, to paraphrase Mr. Chung, real living is totally different.

    But I do admire the idea, in a way: anything that breaks the somnolent flow of our ordinary associations and makes one look objectively at oneself is good, and if it can be made into a money-making proposition, so much the better. The people participating will value the experience a good deal more if they had to pay for it.

    I’m sorry to hear about your login woes; it sounds to me as if your browser is refusing to accept a cookie. Can you check your settings? I’m sure I can hack the WordPress code to add a login by the comment box, but modifying the WP templates means more to keep track of during upgrades. If you really can’t get the cookie-handling to work, I’ll look into it.

    Posted January 13, 2008 at 9:20 pm | Permalink
  4. Charles says

    Cookies work fine for me–I enjoy their scrumptious crunchiness on a variety of sites. It’s probably more the way WP deals with cookies, specifically when they are set to expire. I’ve had similar problems at other WP sites (i.e., having to login every blinking time), and I’m guessing that the cookies are set to expire fairly quickly.

    However, I wouldn’t want to make life any more difficult for you than necessary. All I really want is a link to the login page near the comment form–not necessarily a separate login form. Ideally, we would be able to set when the login (cookie) expires–for example, “never”–but in lieu of that I’ll settle for an easy way to get to the login page. It’s odd that this feature is not standard in the WP templates.


    Posted January 14, 2008 at 12:34 am | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    That’s odd, as I stay logged in forever. But I’ve altered the .php file to add the login link.

    Posted January 14, 2008 at 10:57 am | Permalink

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