South Korea is known for its increasing economy, flavorsome cuisine, commendable inventories, K-culture, and K-pop music industry. However, there is another area that South Korea holds high rates of, i.e., suicides. Even though the suicide rates have reduced over the years, it is still very much practiced and publicized.
South Korea has the highest suicide rate in the OECD(Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development), and according to WHO, they had a suicide rate of 21.2 per 100,000 people in 2019, which is higher than the global average of 9.0 per 100,000 people. The reasons are broadly distributed in age groups and social aspects. The studies have also shown that suicide rates are higher in men when compared to women and even more among divorced couples.
Many studies have worked on finding out the real reasons behind the high suicide rates, and the most common factors lie within the country.
There is no doubt that the South Korean education and evaluation system is one of the hardest in the world. The high schoolers have to take the national standardized test called CSAT(College Scholastic Ability Test,) which will decide the test giver's future. The immense amount of pressure and stress experienced by the youth tells enough about the effects they will face once the results are out. This factor is directly proportional to declining mental health and has caused several suicides.
On the other hand, young adults have to deal with finding jobs and paying their bills. Watching everyone else proceed and find success will be difficult for the adults of this generation who have yet to figure out their life or the career they want to pursue since we all are heading towards a global medium that wants us to earn millions and gain fame overnight. Unemployment and the difficult corporate environment in South Korea can be another reason people decide to end their lives.
Recently a K-pop star’s suicide made it to the news and took the media by storm all around the world. Moonbin, a member of the boy group ASTRO was found dead in his apartment on April 19, 2023. This isn't the first time a South Korean celebrity has taken their life, as it has been happening since the early 2020s. The common reason behind their decision was to avoid hate, struggles that rise with fame, and psychiatric disorders that were left untreated. This tells about the condition of the K-pop industry that is usually fantasized about and unnoticed.
Another aspect of the fan culture that many people don't talk about is how their favorite celebrity’s death can influence and cause a chain reaction in people. Copy Cat suicides are a concept that South Koreans are aware of and link to recent celebrity deaths.
If we look into Asian tradition, it was found that parents who did not have enough pensions or socioeconomic status tend to commit suicide not to burden their children with their living expenses. The children would take responsibility for their parents once they grow old, but this culture is now being slowly demolished. This has been a major reason for many suicides among the elderly.
This isn't all; Korean society and the stigma they hold against mental illnesses is causing people to neglect their mental health conditions or, worse, hide them. How can they be expected to look out for others when they can't help themselves?
To prevent suicide rates, the South Korean government has launched many campaigns. Social media apps are created to search and reach out to students researching content related to suicide. In addition, having educational gatekeepers and controlling the media coverage has seemed to have improved the status. These methods strive to increase public awareness and governmental support for suicide prevention.
Even today, the world is hoping that one can find someone or something they can rely on and not make decisions that they won't have the chance to regret. Until this world gets better for us all, let's look out for our loved ones.
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