News / Asia

    South Korea Tries New Approach to Reduce Suicides

    Jason Strother
    South Korea has one of the highest rates of suicide in the developed world.  Now the government is trying a new approach to prevent people from taking their own lives.

    It only took a single generation for the country to go from an impoverished nation to one of the world’s top economies. It is a fast-paced society, where people have a hard time slowing down. Some observers say this rapid development is leaving many South Koreans feeling isolated and depressed.
     
    Kim Hyun-chung, a psychiatrist at the National Medical Center in Seoul, says more than half of her patients have suicidal thoughts.
     
    “We’re just growing just too fast and people don’t have time to adjust to it," she explains.  "We are an Asian cultural society but now we are more globalized. Its westernized and I don’t think people have had the time to adjust to the big changes.”  
     
    The biggest change, Kim says is family structure.  No longer do multiple generations live under one roof.  She says the traditional support systems are disappearing.
     
    “More parents are working, mother father, they’re both, working families.  More focused toward competition, earning the money all of that.  I think we’re more focused to that than the quality of life,”  Kim says.
     
    She adds that senior citizens make up the largest demographic of Koreans who take their own lives. But suicide is still a leading cause of death for young adults, high school and even middle school students.
     
    Over the past five years, at least 100 Koreans have leaped off Seoul’s Map Bridge into the Han River.  Around half of those jumpers lost their lives. Now Seoul City is trying to turn this suicide spot into what it calls the bridge of life.

    “If we would have only installed walls, it would have stopped people from jumping, but instead we want to change their minds about suicide,” says Lee Ducky, who oversees Han River bridges for the Seoul City government.
     
    Along the bridge’s sidewalk are inspirational slogans that say things like be happy, how’s everything going and have you eaten yet? There are also pictures of babies on the railing and at the center of the bridge is a brass statue of an old man consoling a young person. Seoul hopes these installments will make people think again before taking the next step.
     
    But psychiatrist Kim Hyun-chung is not so sure how effective these will be.  
     
    “I think it's just a stop gap measure, it’s only temporary," she notes,  "it can’t be the only way to solve this problem. I think it would help, just to an extent, not too much”

    Kim adds that if someone really wants to end their life, there are plenty of other bridges across the Han River.

    Malte Kollenberg contributed to this report

    You May Like

    Ethiopia's Anti-terrorism Law: Security or Silencing Dissent?

    Yonatan Tesfaye was detained in December 2015 on charges under Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation; eleven statements from his Facebook page were used as evidence

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    October 04, 2012 11:28 PM
    How about giving people a life worth living. (to reduce suicides)

    by: Lydia from: India
    October 03, 2012 12:46 AM
    A well-written article.. If the pressure to become a number 1 gets lower then the suicide rate automatically becomes lower. It is such a pity to see many people in South Korea get too much stressed out always trying to earn the top position. Its a good thing but too much of this can lead to disasters. When we give our best to something and we cannot do anything beyond our control, I feel that we are already in the no.1 position. Hope they learn this someday and give priority to the most important things like family.

    by: Gitfidl from: So.Cal.
    October 02, 2012 12:12 PM
    God bless you ma'am .. you care. That may be the most important factor. Let your little light shine.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora