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From the article:

> In a large room in a nondescript modern office block in Seoul, staff from a recruitment company are staging their own funerals. Dressed in white robes, they sit at desks and write final letters to their loved ones. Tearful sniffling becomes open weeping, barely stifled by the copious use of tissues.

> The macabre ritual is a bonding exercise designed to teach them to value life. Before they get into the casket, they are shown videos of people in adversity - a cancer sufferer making the most of her final days, someone born without all her limbs who learned to swim.

Showing how worse things could be is a very cheap and torturous way to build appreciation and attempt to increase morale.

> The participants at this session were sent by their employer, human resources firm Staffs. "Our company has always encouraged employees to change their old ways of thinking, but it was hard to bring about any real difference," says its president, Park Chun-woong.

> "I thought going inside a coffin would be such a shocking experience it would completely reset their minds for a completely fresh start in their attitudes."

And also

> He [Park Chun-woong, company president] also insists that his staff engage in another ritual every morning when they get to work - they must do stretching exercises together culminating in loud, joint outbursts of forced laughter. They bray uproariously, like laughing asses together. It is odd to see.

Here is a much better way to improve morale and to prevent the helplessness that leads to suicides:

- pay workers a livable wage

- create an environment where the workday is completely and separated from the personal day

- and one where it is possible for the worker to fully live their lives apart from their workplaces

Then none of these charades will ever be necessary again.

I think you misread this from beginning. As someone from eastern asian background, this feels not like some shady play that employer forces people into, rather I think it is close to a what is a catharsis or some sort of confession in western countries.

The belief system of Sinosphere is built on ancestor worship. Every year, family gather together and goes to ancestor's tomb, do some cleaning and present offering to the other world, memorizing the ceased while appreciating contemporary life. I think this ritual works pretty much the same way, though it might feel weird, but outcome isn't that bad.

I'd almost believe you if it wasn't for the part of the article that read "The participants at this session were sent by their employer, human resources firm Staffs.". I don't see staff members volunteering for this, let alone people signing up for this of their own free will.

I wouldn't necessarily trust the positive feedback from participants either. After all, who would willingly give truthful feedback to an employer that actually believes that this would have the kind of positive effect they seem to believe that it would?

There is a documentary from Vice that talks about the kind of fake funeral in more details.


It is used and viewed as a therapy for a lot of people. I do agree that people should be given the choice to turn down it.

Might be, but it's a personal experience in that case, not one that should be forced upon employees by their employers. Keep work and spiritual life separated, if at all possible.

Agreed, should offer like program for employees to participate. But I want to say this is different than those forced laughters or exercises the article tries to put them together, the latter, especially the laughing part feels pretty creepy to me, much more than this one.

Even 'catharsis' as a Western idea isn't actually that helpful in practice. For example, taking out your anger and feeling 'cathartic' is known to make your emotional problems worse, not better, because you've given it a physical outlet that affects everyone around you.

This is totally a cult-worshipping style setup where the name of the game isn't employee health but ever increasing amounts of company loyalty. Notice how one of the participants was quoted as wanting to "bring more passion" to their work. People who need this treatment need a bigger life change than some theatrics plus some what is most likely unenthusiastic if not totally coerced admission that the bullshit helped.

Finally, don't bring "eastern asian background" into this. You should be able to argue for or against something without using your background to appeal to idiots and racists.

Bringing his eastern asian background isn't appealing to racists. There are differences between cultures and educations and they are not due to differences between races (ie an adopted kid from Korea raised in Europe will have the same culture as his family and not the culture of his origins).

Taking differences of culture into account when talking about practices in different countries make perfect sense. If there were no differences, then the "strange behaviors" we see reported would not baffle us and there wouldn't be any need for such an article. So, I think that the fact that eva1984 mentioned his background let's us know that by having a shared culture he can give us insights into what's happening that we don't necessarily have. Even if we don't agree with the practice, it's interesting to see how it's perceived there.


That said, I do agree with you in that overly paternalistic employers and a definition of life centered around the company (leading to overtime, obligatory parties with the company, etc..) as done in Japan and Korea is often not very good for employees mental health and is probably one of the reason for the increased rate of suicide.

Some people are realizing this (in Japan at least). A bit more than 10 years ago I taught English part time on weekends to retired people in Japan and one of the thing that stuck with me is how many of the men regretted that they hadn't taken more time to enjoy life and do things they want before retiring. I had that discussion with them as I was starting a seishain position in a Japanese company and was surprised by the amount of Sabisu Zangyo (unpaid over time) and the time spent on company dinners etc... They were warning me to be careful and not let myself eaten by the company life.

> Finally, don't bring "eastern asian background" into this. You should be able to argue for or against something without using your background to appeal to idiots and racists.

This x 10. There is being open-minded and there is letting your brains fall out. You can be culturally sensitive, but that should stop when you see victims being stamped upon by a large firm boot, slowly and quietly into the dirt.

Who gets to say if not the people themselves?

Assuming you know better than the people might be the boot stamping you don't see.

(I'm not part of the culture and have no opinion of it. I just disagree that being east asian is irrelevant to something happening involving east asian cultures and religious practices.)

It's South Korea. I don't know why are you assuming they don't get a good wage or have interesting personal lives. Some may work longer hours, but it's really not unheard of in our culture.

It's just a way to get something of your head and accept the inevitable. The culture is different, so I doubt it could ever work here, but given how many upvotes any story related to depression or suicide gets on HN, SV could probably use something too.

Korean and Japanese group actives and social organization always weirds me out. I just can't relate and it feels totally alien. I understand that most of it comes from totally different perspective.

Somebody tried to explain to me that East Asians "roleplay" their parts social hierarchies. It's the job of the boss to patronize and it's the job of the workers to play their role. Officially everything is strict and proper, but in reality there are many accepted ways to break the rules without causing undue fuss. There are lazy workers in Japan and Korea like everywhere else. It's the job of the boss to yell at them like he is really angry, but workers know that their job security and place in the organization is secure if they do the minimum (compared to the same situation in US).

That actually sounds a lot like many US offices. Many bosses don't care that their employee browses FaceBook all day at work, they just pretend to care, as long as the work gets done.

I am ending a 2-week work week/vacation week in Seoul. My first time here. The culture is definitely different. The glimpse I have gotten into work life is that it is industrious and punctual (for a white collar job), and long hours for a more manual job. But at night people seem to get along pretty well with coworkers or friends and go out. Even on a Monday night I stumbled into a Korean BBQ joint with mostly-drunken coworkers jovially making fun of their boss (who was present) and having a good time otherwise. To me, Seoul seems to have a ton of character. I've liked it so far, would like to visit again!

Going out for food and drinks with co-workers is indeed a way to relieve stress and socialize; and it is indeed a place where the hierarchy is (seemingly and within certain bounds) relaxed a little. The shadow side in South Korea (and Japan) is that these outings are to some extent implicitly mandatory. It is a part of their traditional business culture, and during the work week you hardly spend any hours at leisure at home. This pattern is often criticized for its detrimental effect on family life and raising children; or even starting a relationship (in Japan in particular).

Might not all be so bad if your wife is a bad cook though. Korean BBQ is delicious.

whenever I read an article like this, I am so glad for the German labor laws. They might make it harder for employers, but they make it possible to work AND have a decent live.

In Portugal, we have some "theoretically" restrictive labor laws, supposedly very protective towards the employee. Still, everyday you'll hear about someone being told that he/she should feel lucky to even have a job, let alone a salary (because, yes, unpaid stuff is also common).

My point being: labor laws are fundamental, but they don't trump a) on one hand, a bad economical situation; and b) on the other hand, a die-hard culture of constantly finding ways around the law.

This, especially the second point. It does not really matter how protective labour laws are when specialist market is small enough for the option of not signing mutual contract termination agreement and waiting to be laid off by employer would be too risky and detrimental to further career path. Word of mouth is very powerful ally for higher pay grade specialists.

You can substitute "Portugal" with "Italy" without affecting the validity of the sentence.

Labor scarcity is usually more important than labor laws for quality of employment.

"I am so glad for the German labor laws."

Labour laws are not so much the issue.

This is a cultural phenom.

I think one influences the other.

And you need a certain age to appreciate them (for example the child holiday thing).

For someone not from Europe; what sort of worker protections would you like to highlight (also what is the healthcare like there)?

Regarding Healthcare, this wikipedia entry sums it up pretty good: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_Germany

Regarding the worker rights: Not only do you get a decent amount of holidays (around 30 in most companies, with additional free days for parents), but you can also take up to 14 months leave after childbirth (both father and mother, but combined not 14 months each and one person has to take at least 2 months to get the full amount). Your company has to offer you the job if you come back.

You can't get fired on a whim if you didn't do anything wrong. Most jobs will have to give you a 3 to 6 months notice (depending on how long you were working there).

Companies have to pay at least 8,50 Euro per hour.

The law says that you are not allowed to work more than eight hours a day, however exceptions are possible to some extend.

The getting fired part is a two sided sword though. I have to give notice up to 6 month in advance (I don't know the exact number it's a bit complicated). In theory I can dissolve my contract ("Auflösungsvertrag") on the spot but my employer has to agree to that.

It's generally a good idea to have longer periods of job security but for someone who can (in theory) get rehired quickly the laws can get in the way, too.

There's also inflexible stuff that gets in my way quite often. For example I have to rest for 11 hours before I can work again and can only work 11h/day without bureaucratic hassle. I get that it's meant to fight abuse but I'd prefer to have an easy way to waive these rights.

I don't think this would be good idea. Then there would be the danger of employers pressuring their employees to waive their rights: "If you insist on working only 11h/day, we can hire someone else."

I would totally expect this to happen for basically every minimum wage job if you could waive your rights like this.

"I get that it's meant to fight abuse but I'd prefer to have an easy way to waive these rights."

An easy way to waive those rights would mean that effectively no one would have those rights. Quite frankly, it is better to err more on the side of caution in these things. Work will still be there tomorrow.

This is basically the obvious flipside of having these sort of rules. See also, "I wish my business didn't have to follow as many worker regulations so I could make more money faster".

I my case it's more a philosophical issue. I feel fairly uncomfortable working under those regulations (to the point of contemplating quitting an otherwise very interesting job every now and then) because I have a problem with unconditionally delegating my personal decision making to some elites that "know best what's good for me" without a chance to conditionally opt out. I do understand the general concerns and that some middle ground is needed to fight abuse but personally I favor hefty fines for employers that abusing the system and good whistle blower laws/infrastructure.

I think some of this could be solved with different regulations for different kinds of jobs. More "thinky" jobs probably need a lot less regulation than say manual labor.

The 8h/day rule is an average per week if you are working 6 days a week, this is because the maximum work per week is 48h. Usually you work 5 days, so you fall in the rule that you must not be above 48h/week and a maximum of 10h/day.

If you work in shifts, some other rules apply but at the end, you cannot go over the 48h/week on average and have special "recovery" days.

But in Germany you have a lot of agreements for let say metal workers or people in the chemical industry. In some cases, the official week is only 37h or even 35h long.

It's actually even more involved than that. For example there needs to be a 24 hour down period per week and there are mandatory breaks an employee is required to take by law (refusing to take a break, even voluntarily, puts the employer in violation with the law).

I'd say that other than civil servants, people working in the "Handwerk" (a German concept that includes various industrial jobs and skilled crafts, literally "manual labour" but often implying specialised expertise) have it best as they typically work under union contracts and have fairly tight regulations.

OTOH loan workers tend to have it worst: loan workers bypass a lot of the labour laws and often get all of the drawbacks of being self-employed without the benefits of actual free agency. They're often hired to replace permanent employees, so they're sometimes met with hostility from their colleagues and they have no job security and often no way to transfer to a permanent position (both because that's often exactly what they're there to replace and because they're often under non-compete contracts that forbid them from doing that).

Agency work also tends to be pretty bad, especially for designers: you're often expected to work unpaid overtime and there is a lot of pressure keeping people from exercising their rights or asking for a raise. I've routinely seen designers work weekends and massive overtime (think 12 hours, not 10) for months on end. The worst story I heard was of a 32 hour day (working on a regular day until the next morning and then leaving "on time" the next day).

Note that not every agency is like this, but they exist and it's taken for granted that you have to "eat dirt" if you really want to work in the industry. This especially used to be a problem with internships but thanks to some changes to a few laws interns have it pretty good these days (e.g. "voluntary" interns have to be paid minimum wage, making them a lot less cost efficient than they used to be).

Also, of course, almost none of the labour protection laws apply to leadership roles (typically C-level jobs). The reasoning behind this probably being that if you run a company having to take time off can get in the way. Sadly this also means there are some strange corner cases for founders (e.g. you get almost none of the maternity protection).

I've heard in practice it's near impossible to fire badly performing employees in Germany as a result, even if you're a small company. Or firing a bad employee becomes very expensive which is even worse for small companies.

It's probably hindered a bunch of people from starting companies in the region and makes getting a job much harder because employers have to be extra careful.

> I've heard in practice it's near impossible to fire badly performing employees in Germany as a result, even if you're a small company. Or firing a bad employee becomes very expensive which is even worse for small companies.

By tradition, first 6 months of employment are on probation ("Probezeit"), with 2 weeks' notice possible on both sides. Companies can opt out of probation time, though, if they want.

"It's probably hindered a bunch of people from starting companies in the region"

I very much doubt it. If you were really wanting to start a company, you're not thinking, "I'd do this totally awesome thing! If only it wasn't so hard to fire people!"

You start a company with a few small people in germany somewhere.

You quickly realize that because of investment money and running a company, that running it in germany isn't that great and you move the company to the USA.

It happens more than you think.

I'm from the Netherlands. If an employer wants to fire you, he has to follow certain rules. If you have a temporary contract, he can just let you go after that period, so that's a popular method - just hire people temporary. However, you're only allowed to do this three times for a maximum of three years. After that, the contract is fixed without end date. You could fire someone for one month, then take him back, but that will not be allowed. If you do this as employee, then you get fired the fourth time, you can object this in court and the judge will award you with a fixed contract. If you want to do this, you have to fire someone for at least half a year, and that makes it less attractive to do.

Another option is to hire someone who is self employed. It is a popular method since the crisis. Fire an employee, then hire him back. However, if the employee only has one client, you can go to court and prove that in fact nothing has changed, and the judge can reinstate your old contract. I don't know if this happens a lot, but it has happened.

When you have a fixed contract (no end date) and work somewhere for five years, the law says the employer can fire you but has to pay you five months salary. Because of common law practice, this will normally be doubled. He has to prove that he has good reason to fire you. This is in general too little work, or malpractise, or distrust or something that disturbed the work relationship. If this can't be proved, the only option is negotiation about extra money to leave. If they can't agree on this, they can ask a judge. That will cost money as well, so most of the time that path is avoided.

Only in the case of theft or when you're drunk at work, say bad things about your boss or company, can they fire you right there and then without pay. Still they have to prove that.

When unemployed, you can get unemployment benefits, normally 70% of your last salary (average over last 6 months), but you have to search for new jobs and prove that. This will last maximum 24 months, after which you go into welfare, which is super, but little money and you have to sell your house etc.

Same in Germany, the temporary contract is something to be used to hire people when there is too much work. It makes sense to close that "Just renew it" loophole.

They are really strict on after hours working. It's now illegal to require you to check email or call in. Some companies have even gone as far as locking inboxes after hours and during holidays.

In France. There is nothing like that in UK.

"- pay workers a livable wage - create an environment where the workday is completely and separated from the personal day - and one where it is possible for the worker to fully live their lives apart from their workplaces Then none of these charades will ever be necessary again."

No, I don't think that's really it.

The suicide issues in East Asia are highly contextualized to those cultures.

They don't live the same way we do.

They live in highly structured and organized societies with very strong social norms and obligations.

Add in some hyper materialism in S. Korea since the war.

The benefit of this social order is very low crime, fairly efficient society. But the drawback is that a small percent can't take it type thing.

You know how many gun deaths there were in Japan last year? Like one! Of course it has something to do with extremely strict gun control, but it has mostly to do with their culture.

It's not so much a 'workplace' issue so much as it is a cultural issue.

Imagining how much worse things could be is an effective stoic technique often called negative visualization. Many HN readers probably practice it. Whether or not it's a good idea to use it to extrinsically motivate employees is another question..

It's a standard technique of sociopaths in management roles. See "Implement an 'It could be worse' Program" in the relevant classic (and hilarious) textbook: http://www.demotivation.com/excerpts/7-2.html

> - pay workers a livable wage

Common misconception is that companies choose what wage to pay. Unless you're a massively growing startup infused with millions or billions of VC cash, you're pretty much locked into market forces just as the consumer is locked into market prices.

> - create an environment where the workday is completely and separated from the personal day

> - and one where it is possible for the worker to fully live their lives apart from their workplaces

They already do this.

In what way are your suggestions better? Do you mean that they are actually more effective, or are you just talking about your personal preference?

Personally, I would have thought of better mental health care and limiting access to firearms and dangerous medications, so your proposal seemed very out of left field.

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