Sometime between 2181 and 2040 BC, the first suicide note was written in Egypt. There is nothing known of the author of the note, nor if he ever acted upon his desire. Despite its long history, suicide was not much of a global issue until the 1990s when global suicide rates spiked up from 20 to 36 per 100,000 people on average.
Now, suicide is a problem for all countries despite the differences in cultures and environments. However, it is especially a major issue for South Korea. According to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Health Data, Korea’s suicide rate is 3 times the average of other OECD countries. But, how is that so? There are a number of significant factors.
First, South Korean society and the South Korean education system is very competitive, especially when it comes to academics. Students are always put in competitions against each other. Kyung Min Kim, a sophomore at Seowon High School stated that, “from a teenager’s point of view, I’d say that the high suicide rate comes from academic stress.” She further stated that “[students] have to prove [them]selves better than other classmates to get good grades.”
Second, in recent times, South Korea is in crisis due to a lack of job availability and an unpromising future for young graduates and middle aged people alike. Companies have started letting go of people because of their old age, starting from age 45. Also, companies and corporations are only looking for young but experienced people. While this may be beneficial for the company or corporation, because they are looking for experts, no one is given the chance to learn.
“Everyone, if not most people, are under constant stress to find a new job or to not lose the one they have,” said Eunkyung Park, a counselor. “I do not think freshmen in college should be so worried about their jobs, and the same goes with middle aged people.”
Lastly, South Korea is conservative in many ways and one aspect is in family problems. Divorce is not easy in South Korea because society is not fond of the idea. Most people cannot bear the unapproving looks given when divorced and either live through with their spouses or divorce and make an unfortunate choice. Because of that, the depression rate rises leading to higher suicide rates.
Nowadays, however, these problems regarding academic stress, employment, and families are being more acknowledged. More people are becoming more accepting and mindful of these problems. Also, after the peak in suicide rates in 2010, the South Korean government has been on its feet and working on new programs and laws. These new governmental changes are providing more jobs and stability to people and suicide prevention programs and seminars at schools.
These efforts and programs have proven to be successful and South Korea has seen significant decreases in suicide rates. It is hoped that by raising awareness and implementing more programs and seminars, the suicide rate will continue to decrease as the years pass.