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[Opinion] Future Customers of Repositories

Posted September. 12, 2007 07:09,   


“We hugged and cried/ I said I don’t want to let you go/And you said you don’t want to leave me behind/ it’s good that autumn has come since you liked it. / But I don’t like it / because winter comes soon and you left in winter after suffering so much”, “Every morning I wake up, I miss you a lot, mom/I miss your voice waking me up/ I miss you”, “Please forgive me for having been like a child/Hello grandpa, grandma, uncles and aunts/My dad used to think a lot about grandma and cried/ Grandma, love you.”

You can find many “letters to the heaven” on the Internet Web sites of repositories containing cremated dead bodies. Many wives, daughters and sons leave heartfelt messages to their dead husband, mother and father. All have their own heartbreaking stories. Everybody becomes serious in the place where people write about their separation by death and their sorrow. That’s because everyone knows that they have to say goodbye to their beloved family members and they have to die as well when the time comes. We just forget about it.

The new practice of locating cremated bodies in a repository instead of graves may be seen as a deviation from the perspective of traditionalists who value Feng Shui and Confucianism. However, burial is an old tradition that needs to be replaced because of its inefficient land use and the environmentally unfriendliness. The cremation campaign has prompted a sharp rise in cremation rates. In 1991, it was only 17.8 percent, but in 2001, the figure rose to 38.3 percent and in 2005, it was 52.6 percent, exceeding the burial rate. By 2010, the rate is expected to surpass 70 percent.

The repository business is thriving but there are lots of controversies as well. When the Supreme Court upheld a project to construct a memorial park in Seoul this April, there was hope. However, it was crushed when an egg was thrown at a car carrying Cardinal Jeong Jin-seok in front of the Catholic Church planning to build a repository. It is understandable that the residents are unsatisfied with the plan, but we are “future customers” who will have to be there someday.

Yuk Jeong-soo, Editorial Writer, sooya@donga.com