Funeral rites and communication in contemporary Korea

Funeral rites and communication in contemporary Korea
Associate Professor Gil Soo-Han.

Monash's School of Media, Film and Journalism's Associate Professor Gil-Soo Han, together with a team from the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, has been awarded significant funding from the Academy of Korean Studies.

Assoc Prof Gil-Soo Han, along with Andrew Jackson, Lucien Brown, and Josie Sohn from the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, will soon commence their five-year program, Creating a Nexus at Monash for a Stronger Korean Studies in Melbourne and the Metropolitan Region.  

The total contract value of this project is $1,052,079.

The aim of the program is to establish a research hub on Korea and Korean-related areas and further expand Korean Studies at Monash by developing innovative and engaging teaching approaches.

Assoc Prof Gil-Soo Han said:  “My main role is to write a book as a member of the Research team. The book project is contracted with Springer and is going to be published in 2019.”

Funeral rites and communication in contemporary Korea: The business of death

A statement of aims

South Korea ranks number one in suicide rate among the OECD nations and the funeral service industry is booming.

How do we understand high suicide rate and the booming death industry in the context of ‘pariah capitalism’ of the Korean society?

South Korea is the only country where the hospital accommodates both roles of making efforts to cure the sick as well as to fare-well the dead to the long and last journey.

Whilst there are many ways to understand a society, funerary rituals have much to represent about it. Korean society is not an exception.

The book attempts to understand the 21st century Korean society as reflected on the contemporary funerary rites.

Central aims of the book:

A central goal of the book is to question and reflect on the value of human life in South Korea by examining the practices of funeral rites.

1. What are the socio-cultural and economic reasons for the heightened interest in funeral rites in Korea in the last three decades?

2. Why has there been a huge growth of funeral industries for the same period?

3. What are the ways in which contemporary Korean funeral rites reflect Korean capitalist development process?

4. It has been known that funeral rites have been commodified. However what are the ways and the extent to which the commodification has taken place in the Korean societal context?

While I take a direct interest in Korean funeral rites as a crucial part of the contemporary Korean cultures, my core interest lies in the ways in which current development of Korean capitalism has been reflected in the lives of Koreans including funeral rites.

Thus this book attempts to unpack the ‘Korean style pariah capitalism’ [or more correctly chonmin chabonjuui as popularised in Korea] through the investigation of Korean funeral rites.