The South Korean Charity That Tries to Give Everyone a Dignified Farewell


Ham Hak-joon lives alone in one moldy room at the top of a hill in Seoul, looking out on a city and back on a lifetime that have passed him by.

Now 86 years old and retired without a wife or contact with his two grown children, Ham has plenty of time to wonder how his life will end. One constant source of anxiety is who will hold a funeral for him.

He says he hasn’t spoken to his children in more than 15 years and that his only friends are, like him, poor and elderly. “I thought of donating my body to science,” he said. “At least that way I could be sure that someone would come collect me when I go.”

But instead of that, Ham has reached out to a civic group that holds funerals for people who die with no known family members, their bodies going…

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