Death and Dying in South Korea


Death and Dying in South Korea

 

Information on reporting a death, funerals, burial and cremation in South Korea, and repatriation of remains...

 

In the event of a death in South Korea, the local hospital should be contacted to get a Death Certificate (Sa Mang Jin Dan Seo - 사망진단서 ) from the doctors. If the death is related to an accident or crime, the local police station should be contacted to get an Autopsy Certificate (Si Chae Geom An Seo – 시체검안서 ). The certificates are issued only to the family or relatives of the deceased. One of these certificates should be provided when registering the death.

 

Registering a Death

For foreigners in possession of a registration card, the family or relatives should contact their national embassy immediately and report the death to their district or local office (Gu office or Dong Sa Mu So – 구청 or 동사무소 ) within one month. For those who are not registered as residents in South Korea, their family members should contact their national embassy immediately. The embassy assists with all the relevant legal paperwork on registering the death and repatriation of the body.

 

Funeral

Traditionally in South Korean culture, there is a three to five day period during which the family of the deceased welcomes guests and prepares for the burial or cremation. This usually occurs at a funeral home or the home of the deceased. However, it is not necessary for foreigners and they can conduct the funeral according to their traditions and religion. Burial or cremation within 24 hours of a death is prohibited in South Korea.

 

Burial

On private ground

Burial can take place on private ground with the permission of the district or local office (Gu office or Dong Sa Mu So). Before the burial, the family or relatives of the deceased need to check with the local government office if the ground is appropriate for a burial. The private ground for burial cannot be larger than 30. Within 30 days of the burial, the family or relatives should report the site of the burial to the district or local office.

The following documents are required to get permission from the local government for a private burial:

  • a map of the property or photograph
  • a plan of the property (showing burial location)
  • a permission letter from the owner of the property if the property belongs to someone else

The period of burial lasts for 15 years and has to be extended, with a maximum of three extensions, up to 60 years.

On family ground

Burial can take place on family ground with the permission of the district or local office (Gu office or Dong Sa Mu So). Before the burial, the family or relatives of the deceased need to check with the local government office if the ground is appropriate for a burial. The family ground for burial cannot be larger than 100. Within 30 days of the burial, the family or relatives should report the site of the burial to the district or local office.

The documents required to get permission from the local government are the same as for a burial on private ground.

The period of burial lasts for 15 years and has to be extended, with a maximum of three extensions, up to 60 years.

In a public cemetery

A death certificate or autopsy certificate, foreigner registration card and fee are needed for a burial in a public cemetery. A burial may be organized by an undertaker or the family of the deceased.

 

Cremation

Cremation can take place at any crematorium in Korea, but a time for the service should be arranged first.

For the cremation of a foreigner in Korea, a death certificate or autopsy certificate and a confirmation of death issued by their national embassy must be provided prior to arranging the cremation.

The ashes can be scattered in a designated natural burial area but not outdoors on a public pathway or in a river or the sea.

 

Repatriation of a Foreigner

The following documents are needed for repatriation of a body:

  • Death certificate or autopsy certificate
  • Confirmation of death issued by the deceased's national embassy
  • Certificate of embalming
  • Certificate of quarantine issued in Incheon National Airport Quarantine Office
  • Passport of the deceased

For transporting ashes, the following documents are needed:

  • Certificate of cremation
  • Death certificate or autopsy certificate
  • Confirmation of death issued by the deceased's national embassy
  • Certificate of quarantine issued in Incheon National Airport Quarantine Office
  • Passport of deceased

All relevant documents must be translated into English or into the language of the country of repatriation. Also, one copy of all documents must be provided in Korean.

Family or friends of the deceased should contact airlines to get information on how to prepare for the repatriation.


 

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26 Nov 2018


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