Sunday, April 26, 2009

Suicides in Gangwon

I don't have a lot to say; I prefer to attempt humour or sarcasm and there's little material for that here. Still, I can probably do as well as Dram Man did.

Somehow, troubled people found each other online and made and followed plans to meet up in Gangwondo to commit suicide together. " 12 people in five groups have killed themselves in Gangwon. They belong to diverse age groups ranging from teens to people in their 40s, and they apparently plotted the joint suicides in cyberspace..." (Joongang).

The Joongang helpfully also explains in detail how they did it.

Also in the Joongang, is a letter to the editor about the suicides. Here is an excerpt:
This year, unemployment and family issues caused by the economic crisis have probably been a major reason why some people have taken their own lives. To find out everything you need to know about ending your own life, all you need to do is spend some time searching online and eventually you will find what you want to know.

As of 2007, 24.8 out of 100,000 people in our country killed themselves, the highest rate in the Organization of Economic Corporation and Development. If we cannot solve the problem of suicide in this country, our long-term future looks grim and we will forever be labeled as a country prone to suicidal tendencies.

The police have already revealed a plan to mobilize officers specializing in cyberspace to monitor the Internet sites that offer information on suicide, but in reality it is easier said than done to check every posting on countless Internet portals where information on suicide can be delivered in secret.

Therefore, the responsibility to delete images and writing related to suicide falls on the shoulders of the portals. It seems that teenager-frequented portals have become hubs for information about suicide because they have not done enough to monitor their sites.

In addition, the media must be careful when reporting on suicide. Describing methods used to end one’s life might give information to people contemplating suicide.

Let me comment on the last point first. The next paragraph in the letter describes how the groups killed themselves - a little strange, that.

The important parts of this article are the questions why do they kill themselves and what can be done?

At least some of the deceased are teens. I have trouble believing they are killing themselves over economic problems. In addition, although the suicide rate may be higher now, it has always been high here. People were killing themselves before the economic crisis (or between such crises).

I cannot compare Canada to Korea, as I have not lived there for ten years. When I try to make the comparison, I think about Korea now and Canada when I was a youth. Until university, I ate at least five evening meals a week with my parents and was involved with them daily. As I type this, I realize, in horror, that my son is at daycare for many hours a day so spends most of his time with teachers. He is having a very Korean upbringing.

Well, again, he is having a Korean now upbringing as opposed to a Canada then upbringing.

My main point is that I am not sure if I can honestly blame Korean family life or academic competition for the younger ones to have made this choice. I do think families need to observe each other more closely for depression and to act on what they see. In the letter to the editor, the writer discusses actions the police are taking and on the people running the internet portals.

They should be doing something but they must be in an impersonal position. I did not do research before writing this post (I'm a blogger, I don't do research), but if I had, would I be under investigation?

One prevention technique that has worked is informing lodging staff what to look for (Donga):

Around 7:38 p.m., another owner of a pension reported to police that five people in their 20s checked into his hotel. Seven officers arrived about 20 minutes later to find the group having a barbecue and drinking in the front yard.

When the officers asked them to cooperate amid a spate of group suicides, the five said they were just picnicking there.

When asked to give their addresses, each of the five gave different cities: Ulsan, Gongju, Bucheon, Siheung and Cheongju. The officers then concluded that they were there to commit group suicide.

Police asked the five to open the trunk of their car, and found ... items used in a recent series of group suicides in Gangwon Province. The five eventually admitted to police that they did indeed seek to commit group suicide.

I have to compliment the pension owners on their observation skills and well, compliment everyone involved in preventing the deaths.

I wish I had any kind of answer for why chose to kill themselves. To me, their motivations are completely alien and the things they do first are mystifying. Just as the two Columbine killers reportedly went bowling before killing, this group had a picnic.

We are one month away from a sad K-blogging anniversary. Three years ago one of our own committed suicide.

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