Burial, Crematoria, and Columbaria: Social Status and Wealth in the Afterlife



Particular moments and contexts in human history have produced desirable and privileged methods of disposal of the recently dead and their memorialisation in their own unique ways. One desirable method in a culture at a particular point in time may be understood differently in another culture in the same era. Over the course of industrialisation and urbanisation in the last half-century in Korea, the predominant practice of full-body burial changed to that of cremation: 7% in 1971, 13.9 in 1980, 17.5 in 1990, and 82.7 in 2016 (Chun 2003: 138; Lee et al. 2015). This change has been mainly due to the popularised concern over ‘chewing up the small land for the sake of burying the dead’. While the burial rate has been decreased, other methods of body disposal have mushroomed, which consequently brought about new cultures, traditions, and concerns around the new practices, including the shortage of related facilities, the coming of luxurious memorialisation, illegal grave sites and damaged environment (Shin 2007: 226). This chapter is about what happens in regard to interment, i.e., crematorium, columbarium, natural/tree burial (수목장), which takes up a variety of spaces around the class and status of the deceased and their families. The chapter explores the extent to which different methods of human body disposal are commercialised and the ways in which those methods represent the social status and wealth of the deceased when they were alive.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Media, Film and JournalismMonash UniversityCaulfield EastAustralia

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