The first day I turned on the TV in Korea to see a funeral procession was the day I witnessed something that shocked me more than almost anything else I had ever seen on TV. Not since the days of The Word and their 'I'll do anything to be on TV' segment, which saw hopefuls eat worms, bathe in maggots, lick sweat off fat people and do repulsive things in order to get featured on the programme, have I been so repulsed.
Korea is obsessed with the cult of celebrity and this would seem to be the apex of this frankly sick obsession.
The most recent funeral was for actor and singer Choi Jin-young, who is thought to have committed suicide in his Seoul apartment. His elder sister Choi Jin-sil also killed herself in October 2008.
The live show isn't nearly enough however with news stations broadcasting, in true Korean style, the pictures over and over again. A segment on a news program I came across was called 'Star News' and these harbingers of gloom had a reporter following the procession. As he talked, scenes from earlier were replayed yet again, scenes that depicted despondent friends and relatives bathed in a sea of camera flashes. The mother of the deceased, having now lost two of her children after she herself discovered the body of her daughter, was utterly broken and had to be held up by two other mourners. She too was bathed in flashing lights so ferocious that it was like something you might expect at a rave. People outside the family and friend circle do not need to see this.
The grandmother's next job is to tell her grandchildren, the nephews of Choi Jin-young and children of Choi Jin-sil, that their uncle has joined their mother, this after burying her second child in less than 18 months.
Choi Jin-young appeared on the KBS "Park Jung Hoon Show" after his sister's death and said "There were times when I resented her for passing on this huge burden to me," a burden he has now added to and passed on to his mother, make of that what you will.