SEOUL, Oct. 2 (Korea Bizwire) – The telecommuting, online education, and telemedicine sectors have witnessed substantial growth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside these trends, online ancestral rites are also gaining popularity.
Leading up to Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving holiday, memorial parks across the nation saw a surge in visitors paying their respects to the deceased. The scenes of online and metaverse gravesites and worship that emerged during the COVID-19 crisis are now familiar to many.
The eHaneul online memorial service, a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Korea Funeral Culture Promotion Agency, made its debut during Chuseok in 2020. It was introduced to facilitate non-face-to-face burials during the pandemic and has continued to gain traction even after social distancing measures were relaxed.
These online memorials allow users to post tributes, photos, audio, and videos, and offer flowers, incense, and candles in a virtual setting.
In 2021, a significant number of people embraced online memorials, with 248,732 participants during the Lunar New Year holiday and 307,700 during Chuseok, followed by 285,445 during last year’s Lunar New Year holiday and 218,249 during Chuseok, and 195,51 during this year’s Lunar New Year holiday.
The prevalence of metaverse memorial spaces is also on the rise. These spaces are accessible not only to families but also to the public for large-scale worship ceremonies within the metaverse.
The Ministry of Science and ICT is planning to introduce a virtual worship system by establishing a regional memorial site within the metaverse. Last year, a metaverse location was established to commemorate victims of the Jeju Uprising.
In its third comprehensive plan for the supply and demand of burial facilities, announced in January, the Ministry of Health and Welfare outlined its intentions to promote online ancestral rites and the culture of gravesites using information and communication technologies, including virtual reality services.
The government emphasized the need to move away from traditional physical burial sites, such as cemeteries, in response to changing societal attitudes towards death.
In fact, funeral practices are shifting from conventional cemeteries and mausoleums to environmentally friendly and space-saving “sustainable funerals.” One such method is ‘sanbunjang,’ where cremated remains are scattered in natural locations like mountains, rivers, seas, or specific sites.
In a funeral policy survey conducted by the Korea Funeral Culture Promotion Agency last year, 72.8 percent of respondents expressed approval for sanbunjang.
Of the 89.1 percent of respondents who preferred cremation, 23 percent specifically opted for the sanbunjang method. In light of these findings, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has announced plans to institutionalize sanbunjang in its third comprehensive plan, with the goal of achieving a utilization rate of 30 percent by 2027.
Kevin Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)