Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Let Me Stand Inside Your Fire

February 5th, 2010 · 2 Comments

South Koreans are scrambling to incinerate their dead like never before, a trend that has forced the government to revise the law and allow funeral homes to cremate bodies, rather than ship them to one of only four crematoriums in the entire nation. That certainly seems like a much-needed legal step, given the recent increase in South Korea’s cremation rate:

According to the Health Ministry, the nation’s cremation rate for 2008 marked 61.9 percent, up from 27.5 percent 10 years ago.

That stat got us thinking about the trends in the United States. The Cremation Association of North America breaks it all down here:

Since 2000, CANA has projected the cremation rate to 2010 and 2025, which based on current confirmed figures of 2006 (33.61%) and preliminary 2007 figures (34.89%), stand at 39.03% for 2010 and 58.89% for 2025, which equates to nearly 1,909,802 United States cremations in 2025.

There’s a lot of simple economics at play here. As nations develop and property values increase, burial space becomes increasingly dear, making cremation the clear budget-conscious choice. But we reckon that both secularization and physical mobility play a role in cremation trends, too. Secular families surely place less emphasis on the rituals of regularly paying respects to headstones, while children who’ve dispersed hundreds of miles from their birthplaces are less apt to value the existence of permanent markers.

The state-by-state breakdown of cremation rates lends credence to these theories. Note that cremation is most popular in the Far West, while least popular in the Deep South. The spread is pretty enormous—nearly two-thirds of Washingtonians end up as ashes, versus just 3.22 percent of Tennesseans.

The Volunteer State rate is actually bafflingly low—the second-to-last state on the list, Alabama, more than doubles the Tennessee rate. Perhaps there’s some Elvis envy at work around Memphis.

(Image via 7Junipers.com)


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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Jordan

    Did you ever hear about the crematorium that was going to use the waste heat from the exhaust to warm their chapel? Certainly a “unique” environmentally friendly heating solution.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    Yeah, if memory serves, the guy had to put a halt to his plans due to the public uproar. Surprising that a man in his line of work wouldn’t have been more sensitive to our species’ tendency to be weirded out by the remains of our fellow travelers.