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Author Topic: Korean Funeral Customs  (Read 6518 times)

Offline schuettl

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Korean Funeral Customs
« on: April 20, 2012, 01:56:29 PM »
I need to attend a funeral for a beloved staff member at our school who recently and tragically died due to a fire at his home.  Though I have been to way more than my fair share of weddings, I have no experience at all with Korean funeral customs.  I don't know what's going to happen, when the proceedings are, who or how much I'm supposed to pay, what I'm supposed to wear, how long its going to last... anything!  Any help would be much appreciated, and if it helps shed any light in customs, we all live in a very rural farming area.  Thanks bunches.

Offline K

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Re: Korean Funeral Customs
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2012, 02:44:38 PM »
First off, I'm sorry to hear about that.

Also, there is another thread about this somewhere because I had to ask some of the same questions before.

Here's what I experienced.
The atmosphere is less somber than what I expected, especially compared to what I've experienced back home. People were conversing and eating/drinking together in a separate room. I should add that they weren't being overly loud. 
The family wore black garments, while the guests were wearing black or dark colours (usually suits/ skirt/ dress - not casual).
You pay depending on how well you knew the individual and their family. In your case, 50 000 sounds appropriate. If you didn't know them well, but were friends of the family, you could give 30 000. Remember, give a number of bills that equals an odd number.
In my case, the funeral had two rooms and an entryway. In the right room, was the coffin. Here I came in and bowed to it and then turned 45 degrees and bowed to the family. The bow was kind of like two half bows and one full bow on the floor. (I had asked a fellow Korean to show me how). Later I found out, it was also possible to place a flower on the coffin (at this funeral the family was Christian so that option was available).
I went with my boyfriend but I'd suggest going with your teachers if you can. They would help guide you along.


I found the other thread. Here it is: http://waygook.org/index.php?action=profile;u=6097;area=showposts;start=100
« Last Edit: April 20, 2012, 03:23:51 PM by K »

Offline orangeman

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Re: Korean Funeral Customs
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2012, 02:52:49 PM »
I'm really sorry to hear about this. 

Like you, I had never been to a Korean funeral after several years here.  However, over the last couple of months I've been to two funerals for family members of my co-teachers.  It is very different than our customs in the West, but fortunately it's also less formal so there's not the same fear of making a fool of yourself. 

You will likely go to a hospital where there is a building with different rooms for funerals.  It's actually very similar to the wedding halls here, and you can dress the same (no special colours are expected).  Give your donation to the front desk--as the above poster suggested, 50,000won is sufficient. 

You will greet the family and go into a smaller room with a picture of the person and bow.  This is the only real formal custom I witnessed, and I screwed it up both times.  The first time we did the Korean bow, down on your knees and forehead against the floor TWICE.  The second time was a Christian family and as I got down on my knees I was quickly told they do not practice that custom.  Instead, I was given a flower to offer.  So I guess my advice would be to follow the group closely.  As a foreigner I didn't cause offence, but still.  Then you go off to eat and drink with everyone else.  Laughing and being loud are not only allowed, it's sort of encouraged in order to take the family's mind off things (that's how it was explained to me).  Dig in and drink up.  I stayed about 1.5-2 hours both times which I guess is standard for co-workers. 

I hope this helps.  Obviously, funerals are hard for everyone and it's even harder when you're scared of doing the wrong thing.  But I wouldn't worry too much, as I said it's much less formal than what we're used to. 

Offline hokeypokey

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Re: Korean Funeral Customs
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2012, 03:07:31 PM »
I'm sorry to hear about the tragedy.
The funeral I went to was at a funeral parlor, not attached to a hospital.  The family was sitting with the deceased in the other room.  Everyone was in formal black attire.  My co-teacher and I went on a moments notice, we were in informal colorful clothes.  Those in formal clothes went to an altar and bowed to the photo of the man.  Since we were in casual attire we just sat at a small table.  We ate a small snack, paid 30,000 won in an envelope. The family is Christian. 
It was quiet and somber. The man died suddenly.  Since the family was busy with he body we left pretty quickly. 

Offline schuettl

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Re: Korean Funeral Customs
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2012, 04:16:01 PM »
Thanks so much everyone I tried to look for a previous thread before I posted but didn't to find one.  I'm so distracted by the loss that it's tough for me to keep my wits about me and figure out what's going on.  I've now been told that it will be at a hospital and they sent me home to change.  I wore black formal clothes today but my navy shirt had some red poppies on it and they told me to change it to black or plain navy and to wear black shoes as well.  From what I knew about Il Tae he was Buddhist, so I guess I'm gonna have to bow.  I hope to God it's just a picture and not his body.  I really doubt they put his body there since he was very badly burned.  Oh man, going to a funeral for someone you really liked is hard as it is, but it's so much harder when you have no idea what's going on.  Thanks for all of the kind thoughts and advice everyone.

Offline orangeman

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Re: Korean Funeral Customs
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2012, 01:24:51 AM »
Thanks so much everyone I tried to look for a previous thread before I posted but didn't to find one.  I'm so distracted by the loss that it's tough for me to keep my wits about me and figure out what's going on.  I've now been told that it will be at a hospital and they sent me home to change.  I wore black formal clothes today but my navy shirt had some red poppies on it and they told me to change it to black or plain navy and to wear black shoes as well.  From what I knew about Il Tae he was Buddhist, so I guess I'm gonna have to bow.  I hope to God it's just a picture and not his body.  I really doubt they put his body there since he was very badly burned.  Oh man, going to a funeral for someone you really liked is hard as it is, but it's so much harder when you have no idea what's going on.  Thanks for all of the kind thoughts and advice everyone.

I'm really sorry about all of this.  If anything, this thread has opened my eyes to all the different customs here.  I really wouldn't worry too much about causing offence.  As long as you ascribe to the Anglo-Saxon way of grieving it'll be fine (because it's so understated).  As I said, in my case normal behaviour with soju and laughing was the norm but I still was somber and dressed in black.  Koreans know our customs and my co-teachers were appreciative of my efforts.  Quiet and pensive will never be offensive. So don't sweat the small stuff.  Just follow the lead of your co-workers and be what is respectful to you. 

Offline schuettl

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Re: Korean Funeral Customs
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2012, 08:02:08 PM »
So, if anyone is interested to know more about the wonderful man lost or how the funeral ended up going, I wrote a post about it on my blog.  Not trying to be a crazy self-promoter, just thought I'd let people know what ended up happening...  http://going2gangwon.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/il-tae-oppa-and-korean-funeral-customs/

Offline K

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Re: Korean Funeral Customs
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2012, 02:17:40 PM »
I hope that everything went as best as it could for you.

I just found this little tidbit out today. Apparently if you are pregnant, you do not attend funerals.

 

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