Suicide rates in S. Korea on the rise after five years of decline

Alvis Benn, Sept. 25, 2019, 9:31 a.m.


Korea's suicide rate is on the rise again after five years of decline.

According to Statistics Korea on Tuesday, 13,670 people killed themselves last year, more than 37 a day. That translates into a suicide rate of 26.6 per 100,000 people, up 9.5 percent from 2017. The figure had been decreasing since 2013 when it was 28.5.

It means Korea is likely to top the OECD suicide statistics again. Lithuania had the worst suicide rate last year after Korea held the top spot for 13 years.

In January last year, the government set a goal to reduce the suicide rate to 17 per 100,000 people by 2022, but dire economic straits seem to have made that more difficult.

The suicide rate rose in all age groups except among people over 80. Among teenagers, it jumped an alarming 22.1 percent from 4.7 to 5.8.

Indeed, suicide remains the top cause of death among younger Koreans, with 35.7 percent for those in their teens, a staggering 47.2 percent or nearly half for 20-somethings and 39.4 percent for those in their 30s.

"There may be a number of causes for the rise, but celebrity suicides certainly had an impact" by producing copycats, said an official at the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The number of suicides increased in January, March and July last year, and the rise seems to be related to highly publicized celebrity suicides, including a famous actor and a political figure, at those times, according to Kim Jin at Statistics Korea.

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