Cremation in South Korea – From Ashes to Beads

South Koreans are now changing the culture of the dead. Instead of burying the dead in a cemetery, they are now accepting cremation: turning the dead body into ashes. Much more, making it a difference, turning the ashes into gem-like beads. Making it bizarre transformation of culture that used to be a natural form of disposing the dead.

The gem-like beads from the remains of your love ones relates emotional attachment seeing them in your hands like precious stones. This how Kim II-nam of South Korea deeply attached to his father who died 27 years ago. Maintaining treasure moments with his father to fight from grief and keeping his father close to him the moments seeing those crystal beads in his hands.

Not only Kim II-nam started embracing the new trend of keeping the death of love ones but the whole Korean communities started leaving the Confucian way. A law was passed in 2000 to remove the grave after 60 years buried in land. Additional campaign from the government is pushing their citizens to accept cremations to save space in a densely populated small country. The campaign was successful that cremation rate increase putting only 3 out of 10 dead humans were buried.

The rise of cremation in South Korea gives way to the sharp increase of beads maker companies that involves technologies in making gem-like beads from human ashes. It will take 90-minute for the whole process with ultra-high temperature forming into solid crystal. The resulting colors attracted one’s eye mostly blue-green, while others are turning into pink, purple, and black.

Bonhyang is one of the companies successful in this field founded by Bae Jae-yul. According to Bae Jae-yul the beads allow people to keep their relatives close to them, wherever they go.

Kim II-nam paid as much as $870 to the company who transforms the ashes into crystal beads after digging up the bones of his father from the grave. He put it in his urn the blue-green color like gem stones. Some of the beads put it in his car while some give it to his five daughters. Whenever he saw them it feels his father is in them.

The other side of moral issue is profit-taking venture when companies dramatic rise find it lucrative for business the rising demands of cremation and beads making.

But some conservative against it. For them the highest level of respect for the dearly departed is to let them go back to nature.

beads from dead

Credit: Ahn Young-joon


  1. jossiah says

    I’ve talked about this issue with my Korean student( I am his foreign English teacher). I’ve shown him this articles and other articles relevant to this topic. One thing that I didn’t understand was he really got MAD after knowing it. He really despised this practice and even said that this man was crazy. I just didn’t get it why he got mad even at me. If he is an open minded person, he should have respected other Korean’s decision and belief about cremation and turning ashes into beads. My student asked me to stop the class because he was really REALLY upset even to me. I was also disappointed on how close minded he was that this is a reality that he was to respect like other Koreans respect his belief.

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