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[Newsmaker] Seoul mayor’s death highlights Korea’s suicide problem

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon’s apparent suicide on Thursday is once again highlighting Korea’s suicide problem.

Park is the latest in a growing list of high-profile figures to take their own life here. The list of public figures includes progressive icons such as President Roh Moo-hyun and Justice Party leader Roh Heo-chan.

High-profile suicides occur on an almost routine basis in Korea, with suspected motivations ranging from a damaged political reputation to depression brought on by years of online bullying.

The frequency with which such deaths occur and the extensive news coverage of them have even prompted the Korean journalists association to issue guidelines on suicide-related news. And information on seeking help has been attached to such news articles for some years.

While high-profile figures’ suicides drawing such media attention, suicide among the general public has been a growing social problem.

South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, standing at 26.6 per 100,000 people as of 2018, according to Statistics Korea. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 2017 data puts the figure at 23 per 100,000 people, giving Korea the highest suicide rate among its members of developed nations.

According to data compiled by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Korean men are twice as likely as women to die by suicide, and the suicide rate grows with age.

The data shows that the suicide rate among Korean men in 2018 came to 38.5 per 100,000 people, which is 2.6 times higher than that of women, which came to 14.8 per 100,000 people. Of the 13,670 Koreans who died by suicide in 2018, 72.1 percent were men.

By age group, those 80 and above showed the highest suicide rate at 69.8 per 100,000 people. The figure drops with age, falling to 17.6 per 100,000 for those in their 20s, and 5.8 per 100,000 for teens.



By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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