In recent years mourning at funerals has become about building social status in Korea's competitive society, and the woman who cries the loudest or rolls around on the floor the longest at a funeral tends to be held in high regard afterwards. Kim added "There's real competition to be seen as the most hysterical mourner, and his mother is still alive..."
But Kim recognized it would be difficult to escape her social responsibilities at the funeral, so she approached a discrete company operating in an Songpa backstreet which offers "professional wailers and screamers, many tears guaranteed." They sent one of their employees bearing the closest resemblance to Kim to the funeral in her place, while she watched disguised as a 'distant and unimportant cousin from outside Seoul'.
A spokesman for the company explains that depending on the package purchased, the 'professional wailer' can merely cry, scream, and – in the more expensive packages - roll around on the floor uncontrollably, or even try to climb into the grave as the dirt is scattered over the coffin. "It's rare for family to notice the substitution" he pointed out, "because they are usually too busy wailing themselves." However, on this occasion one of the funeral workers, who claims to have been owed money by the deceased, realized that the woman wailing the loudest was not the man's wife. "I just naturally assumed it was a mistress", said 53-year-old Kim, "but then I saw his wife further back crying gently, and I knew something was amiss."
The family are said to be scandalized by the wife's behavior, although they admitted that the stand-in was "very good", having climbed into the grave for a second time during the funeral as "service" - a free extra. It's also not clear how long the woman's children can continue to ignore her, since tradition dictates that they have to visit her house to eat at Chuseok - the upcoming Autumn Harvest Festival holiday.
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