SEOUL, March 16 (Korea Bizwire) — The Ministry of Health and Welfare has announced plans to develop new funeral facilities, pushing the cremation rates past 90 percent by 2022.
The new plan will see a total of 52 new crematoriums built across South Korea over the next five years, with 23 scheduled in Gyeonggi Province alone, to help shrink regional gaps when it comes to access to funeral facilities.
Currently, there are 342 crematoriums in the country, but bereaved families from neglected areas have been subject to funeral expenses that are up to 10 times higher than in other regions.
In addition, new cremation memorial parks accommodating remains of up to 130,000 people will be built over the next five years, as the government is set to push for burials of cremated remains over traditional burials.
The funeral infrastructure initiative comes as the national cremation rate passed 80 percent for the first time in 2015.
The figure had quadrupled over two decades since reaching 20 percent in 1994, signaling a major shift towards cremation in the South Korean funeral industry.
As city residents often have limited access to funeral facilities, the government is set to provide support and encourage cooperation between local governments of surrounding areas in building multi-purpose facilities offering various funeral options.
Plans are also in place to run a government-backed funeral hall, which will be used to provide funeral services to victims of nationwide disasters and health crises such as the MERS outbreak back in 2015.
With the cremation rate continuing to rise, health authorities expect more space will open up for enshrinement and cremation at pre-existing funeral facilities, accommodating cremated remains of over 200,000 people.
“Funerals are a sacred ritual to commemorate the deceased concerning all members of the public. It is imperative to reduce inconvenience experienced during the process and offer dignified funeral services,” said Lee Joo-hyun, a senior official at the health ministry.
The latest measure follows the health ministry’s previous promise to prepare for increasing cremation rates by building new funeral facilities including a crematory, as more South Koreans began opting for the simpler, more hygienic and affordable funeral option in recent years.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)