Korea’s suicide rate is estimated to be the highest among advanced countries, according to the National Statistical Office yesterday.
Issuing its annual death report, the NSO said a total of 12,858 people, or 24.3 people for every 100,000 Koreans, took their own lives last year, equivalent to 35 people killing themselves on average every day.
The figures represent a rise from 23.9 per 100,000 people in 2007 and 21.5 for 100,000 in 2006.
The figure for Japan, where suicide is also a major social problem, was 19.4 in 2007, and the rate for Hungary, which is also known to have a high suicide rate, was 21 per 100,000 in 2005, according to the latest data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development this year.
The NSO said given the fast growth in the suicide trend in Korea, no other OECD country comes close. “The figures for other OECD countries, even after they are updated, would not be as high as Korea’s recorded last year,” said Lee Ji-yeon, an official of the NSO, one of the report’s authors. “Not even the rates for Japan and Hungary are rising as quickly as Korea’s.”
According to the NSO, suicide was the biggest cause of death for Koreans in their 20s and 30s last year. Those taking their own lives accounted for 40.7 percent of those who died in their 20s last year, the NSO said. Traffic accidents and cancer caused 18.8 percent and 10.5 percent of deaths, respectively, of people in their 20s.
Suicide accounted for 28.7 percent of deaths of people in their 30s, followed by 20.6 percent for cancer and 9.6 percent in traffic accidents.
Suicide was the fourth largest cause of death for all age groups after cancer, brain disease and cardiovascular diseases.
In Korea, the suicides of celebrities or other public figures often make the headlines. After the suicide of the popular actress Choi Jin-sil last October there was a surge in the number of people taking their own lives, according to the NSO.
In May of this year, former President Roh Moo-hyun, under pressure from an investigation into his financial affairs, jumped to his death.
Experts attribute the rapid growth in suicide in Korea to the rising unemployment rate among young people and the weak social safety net for senior citizens, among other factors. (Joong Ang Daily)