There are many ways to honour a passed loved one after the process of cremation. Some find immense comfort scattering ashes in a person’s favourite spot, or perhaps more commonly, by selecting a beautiful urn designed and decorated to honor the deceased. In South Korea however, a fascinating technique is transforming the remains themselves into a beautiful, decorative object rather than scattering the ashes in a final location.
Ashes to Beads
Specifically, the process uses a high amount of heat and pressure to melt ashes down into gem-like beads that are usually blue-green, pink, purple, or black in colour. One company in particular, Bonhyang, told yahoo news that the process takes about 90 minutes, produces four to five cups of beads and uses no added minerals. The small, pretty gems are completely produced from human remains—something that brings added comfort to mourners in Korea who want to feel closer to those who have passed. The beads are often put into small glass containers to display the colours. Advertisements and Bonhyang’s CEO have expressed that an advantage to these beads is that they are much easier to transport—meaning Koreans could keep their loved ones close at all times.
Cremation in Korea
Cremation is a relatively new development on the Korean peninsula. Confucian customs called for highly respectful burials and regular visits to gravesites. Unfortunately, the country simply lacked the land area for these processes to continue and the government began implementing new legislation and campaigns to educate South Koreans on the benefits of cremation. The most dramatic of these efforts was a law requiring that anyone buried after the year 2000 must be removed after 60 years—a rule that led to skyrocketing rates of cremation.
However for the Korean sensibility built around honour, respect, and frequent visits to a grave didn’t completely adjust to this new practice. For some it seemed that scattering ashes or covering them with a decorative urn lacked the intimate rituals of visiting a grave. Kim Il-Nam told Yahoo, “Whenever I look at these beads, I consider them to be my father and I remember the good old days with him.”
Popularity of the Practice
These beads aren’t limited to Korea. Services performing this exact process exist in Japan, Europe, and the United States as well. Of course, the practice has not gained anywhere near the popularity that it holds in Korea. Exactly how many do this is hard to say though as the most successful companies in the country have yet to release their profits, but current numbers show that 7 out of every 10 deceased within the last year were cremated.
As those numbers continue to rise, it’s entirely possible that more and more beads will begin appearing in Korean households, or perhaps all over the world.