Burial or Cremation?

Dear Korean,

Would there be any shame associated with cremating a loved one rather than burying him/her?

White Schoolteacher

Traditionally, Korean people preferred to bury their dead. Traditional funeral in Korea is a big affair, requiring many people dressed up in hemp clothes carrying a lavishly decorated casket, to the family burial ground where the entire family is to be buried. Below is a re-creation of a traditional Korean funeral. The Korean Grandfather's funeral looked like this, because he is from a traditional family.

But all that changed significantly in the last 20 years or so. As traditional family structure weakened, the younger generation decided that it was easier to tend a crypt than a burial plot with grass and a tombstone. Also, the government encouraged cremation and in some cases even provided a subsidy for cremation, as it was concerned about the family burial plots taking up too much land. The result is a dramatic increase in cremation -- from 17.8% of all burials in 1991 to 67.5% in 2010. In particular, overwhelming majority of city folks preferred cremation, compared to rural residents.

So at this point, it's safe to say that there is no shame associated with cremation.

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