Monday, September 5, 2011

Korea top in the OECD... for suicide... again

The Voice of America has an article highlighting the latest news reports in what has long been an infamous, chronic problem in South Korea: the terribly high suicide rate.
South Korea has the highest suicide rate among the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

South Korean news reports say about 15,500 people in South Korea committed suicide in 2009. This represents about 28 deaths by suicide for every 100,000 people, or about 42 people on average daily.

The country's suicide rate is the highest among 34 OECD member countries.

The Yonhap news agency quotes a new report by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which says that suicide is the number one cause of death for people aged between 10 and 40 years in the southeast Asian country.

It says the second most frequent cause of death for South Korean people in that age bracket is traffic accidents, followed by cancer.

Yonhap quotes a ministry official saying the government is planning to open prevention centers throughout South Korea to help lower the suicide rate.

It says a new legislation on suicide prevention passed the National Assembly in March.
I am curious about how the centers will work out, including whether they'll get enough funding from the government and acceptance by the public. Perhaps I should investigate when I'm in Korea next, but in the meantime, past thoughts of mine on the suicide epidemic can be found here (with more links here and here, with some overlap).

Cory in Korea has a fairly thorough post on the issue, the kind of thing I'd write right now if I had a bit more time. As I suggested in my link about the suicide epidemic just above, as well as in comments on other blogs, one of the biggest problems to overcome is that suicide has come to be seen as normative and even noble. From a public health perspective, this is a disaster of despair.



  1. Posted on the subject as well. Important point to me seems that after a brief drop-off in 2006, in three years the rate jumped once more (and quite significantly). Personally, in my time here since 2009, where the numbers come from, I haven't seen any signs of improvements. The battle for public perception still has to be won, hopefully it will happen soon.

  2. Thanks, 코리. I added a link in the update. In future, if you think something you've written on your blog has some degree of relevance to what I've written, please feel free to link it.

  3. I've been feeling a bit bad because I haven't had the chance to travel much lately.

    But it's cheering to know that I've made it to Southeast Asia without leaving Korea!

    (Sorry if this doesn't really pertain to the discussion at hand...)

  4. It's fair game, Graham. Americans can be a bit geography-impaired, even supposedly educated people, like at VOA or the Wall Street Journal, which handed over Saipan to Korea.


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