South Korea – Where death is a popular option
The shocking death of a reality show contestant last week has thrown a light on South Korea’s suicide epidemic, said Kim Tae-ick. The contestant, identified only by her surname, Jeon, apparently hanged herself with a hair-dryer cord after telling her mother that she would not be able to live once the Bachelor-style show aired. Sadly, her tale is common. Our suicide rate is a staggering 29.1 per 100,000 people—the highest in the developed world and more than twice the average for the rich countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. “Even more chilling is the rate of increase.” Suicide has tripled in just 20 years. It ensnares people from all walks of life, from the poor, “apparently unable to endure poverty,” to rich politicians like former President Roh Moo-hyun, who was accused of corruption and jumped off a cliff a year after leaving office. Yet as a society, we are doing practically nothing to combat this scourge. The death toll from suicide is 15,000 Koreans a year, compared with 5,000 from traffic accidents. But we spend $1.6 billion on traffic safety and a mere $9 million on suicide prevention. As a culture, we need to adopt the Solomonic motto “This too shall pass.” It will take government intervention to teach this lesson.