Two Articles on Suicides and Statistics in Korea

February 18th, 2009 · Society · 8 comments

The first article reports on the ways people commit suicide in Seoul and how old they are when they do it.

Among suicides committed in Seoul, researchers have found the most common method is hanging and they are quite frequent in the wealthy area of Gangnam-gu.

According to the research done by 38-year old Jeong Seong-guk of the Gangwon Provincial Police Agency (강원지방경찰청) and published by the Korean Society of Forensic Science (한국법과학회지), there were 2,330 suicides in Seoul in 2007. 1,448 were committed by men and 882 by women.

48.2%, or 1,110 people, committed suicide by hanging, followed by the 15.8% (368) who jumped from a great height, the 12.1% (283) who drowned, the 6.7% (157) who took poison, and the 15% (349) who used other means.

Of those who hanged themselves, 7.6% (85) lived in Gangnam-gu, followed by 5.5% (62) in both Gwanak-gu and Eunpyeong-gu and 5.4% (61) in Songpa-gu.

26.9% (298) of the people who committed suicide were in their 60s, followed by 22% (244) in their 20s and 17.9% (199) in their 30s, indicating that the aging of the population may lead to an increase in suicide.

Researcher Kim said, “the increase in the suicide rate in modern society is a social issue going beyond the deaths of the individuals. This research was carried out in order that prevention policy may be based on a concrete analysis of suicide.”

According to the research, in 2007 there were 244,874 deaths in our country, an average of 671 deaths per day. 12,174 of those deaths, 5% of the total, were suicide, making it the fourth-leading cause of death after cancer, stroke, and heart disease.

The second article relies on a few anecdotes to create a rash of mother-child murder-suicides in Busan.

Shock is spreading over the increasing number of cases of mother killing their children and then themselves because of financial troubles and failed businesses.

53 people have committed suicide in Busan so far this year.

At around 10:40 at night on the 10th, 38-year old Mrs. A was and her 5-year old daughter B were found dead in their apartment in Anrak-dong in Dongrae-gu.

Police are investigating the case as death by nitrogen monoxide poisoning because the oven in the room was turned on in the room where the bodies were found.

Shockingly, from the condition of their bodies and the time of Kim’s report it appears that she committed suicide around January 13th and thus went undiscovered for nearly one month.

Investigators found that Mrs. A was apparently suffering from depression because of arguments with her husband, and was also unable to cope with her daughter’s educational costs.

At approximately 2 am on the 6th 32-year old Mrs. C threw her 5-year old daughter D and then herself from the 13th floor of their officetel in Haeundae-gu in another shocking case.

Her husband was out working as a professional designated driver at the time, and there were wounds on the neck of their daughter.

Investigators found that the deceased Mrs. C had been depressed after her Chinese restaurant went out of business in January of last year.

Suicides due to poor economic situations are frequent, and there were 53 suicides in Busan alone in the first 42 days of this year.

That makes for an average of 1.2 suicides per day in Busan.

People unable to find hope in the dark tunnel of the poor economy are increasingly faced with extreme choices and new measures appear to be needed to prevent more deaths.

The figure of 1.2 sucides per day in Busan is probably roughly comparable to the 6.8 per day in Seoul in 2007 once you take population size into account.


  • I’m confused about this sentence:
    “Her husband was out working as a professional designated driver at the time, and there were wounds on the neck of their daughter.”

    Did the child not die along with her mother or….?

    TL · February 18th, 2009 at 9:38 AM

  • I guess the implication is that the mother tried to strangle her but was unsuccessful, so then she tossed her off the building.

    Korea Beat · February 18th, 2009 at 10:12 AM

  • I don’t know how the official statistics count them, but many a time, the newspapers report them (mom throwing her kids off the building before jumping herself) not as murder-suicide, but as family suicide. Something like “A Korean mother and her two children committed suicide by jumping off a building today.” Um, no. She murdered her children by THROWING them off the building (or strangling or poisoning or whatever) before killing her/himself.”

    I wish such incidents would be reported accurately in their tragedy.

    Fan Death Avenger · February 18th, 2009 at 2:14 PM

  • I was a bit confused by that sentence too. I think it’s just poor writing skills on the part of the original reporter, no?

    Curious, I am now reading a book (Native Speaker) by Lee Chang Rae, and just read this passage this morning:

    “She is afraid for him. Over the phone, she couldn’t say the word she was thinking. But I told her she was wrong. I know he is alive. Korean’s don’t take their own lives. At least not from shame. My mother said to me once that suffering is the noblest art, the quieter the better. If you bite your lip and understand that this is the only world, you will perhaps persist and endure. What she meant, too, was that we cannot change anything, that if a person wants things like money or comfort or respect he has to change himself to make them possible, because the world will always work to foil you.”

    Guess that’s just another example of how hard it is to pigeonhole any group of people, even for people from within the subject society.

    Tragic story, this.

    Steelhorse · February 18th, 2009 at 2:17 PM

  • about that sentence, i just thought it was the original writer replicating the disorientation of the investigating perspective, mirrors the mother’s as she carried it out. the lack of some reassuring columbo figure, makes this really downbeat to read.

    ed · February 18th, 2009 at 3:20 PM

  • […] Korea Beat translated an article from Yonhap News , indicating that 12,174 people committed suicide in South Korea in 2007, or 5% of the total deaths. That makes it the fourth leading cause of death in Korea. Fourth!!! That makes it a more common cause of death than, say, motor vehicle accidents, diabetes, or mad cow disease. […]

    Suicide… « Wandering, learning, sharing… · February 18th, 2009 at 7:51 PM

  • […] Beat translated two local news on suicide patterns and statistics in Seoul and Busan. Posted by Oiwan Lam  Print version Share […]

    Global Voices Online » South Korea: Suicides and Statistics · February 19th, 2009 at 11:58 PM

  • Thanks for the clarification. Such a tragedy.

    TL · February 22nd, 2009 at 3:43 PM

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