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Employers hold ‘mock funerals’ for South Korean workers in a bid to slash suicide rates

South Korean employers are going to extraordinary lengths to tackle the highest suicide rate in the developed world

South Korean employers are going to extraordinary lengths to tackle the highest suicide rate in the developed world by making staff attend their own mock funerals.

In Seoul, the Hyowon Healing Centre is running sessions which promise to leave those who attend them reflecting on the meaning of life.

A group of employees write farewell letters to loved ones before getting their very own wooden coffins. Once inside, they lie down in their casket – hugging a picture of themselves – draped in black ribbon.

A man representing the Angel of Death closes each coffin, leaving those inside to reflect on how they have spent their time on earth.

Jeong Yong-mun, who runs the Hyowon Centre, told the BBC that the unusual exercise is designed to help people come to terms with their own obstacles. The inspiration for the mock funerals came from his previous position in a funeral company.

There are an estimated 40 suicides in South Korea a day. The Korean Neuropsychiatric Association found that a quarter of those it surveyed suffered from high stress levels, with work-related anxiety cited as a prime cause.

Park Chun-woong’s recruitment company is one of several that has been staging staff funerals at the Hyowon Centre. He told the BBC: “Our company has always encouraged employees to change their old ways of thinking, but it was hard to bring about any real difference.

‘I thought going inside a coffin would be such a shocking experience, it would completely reset their minds for a completely fresh start in their attitudes.”

“After the coffin experience… I hope to be more passionate in all the work I do and spend more time with my family,” said one employee, Cho Yong-tae.

Mr Park has also introduced a daily communal laughing session for staff. “I think it really does have a positive influence,” he said. “There’s so little to laugh about in a normal office atmosphere, I think this kind of laughter helps.”

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