Plunge Pontificates

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Korea, the Suicide Kingdom

A sad story on the number of suicides in Korea and the aftermath, families torn apart.

One person dies of suicide every 48 minutes, and one person attempts suicide every 90 seconds. From young children to the elderly, 30 people kill themselves and 960 attempt suicide every day, according to the National Statistical Office. But the tragedy does not end with their death: Families have to live with the loss. On the occasion of the first anniversary of the actress Lee Eun-ju’s suicide on Wednesday, the Chosun Ilbo looks at the pain of relatives.

“I keep thinking she’ll come through that door. I can’t lock the door because she could run in any second and ask for dinner,” Kim Sun-ja (54) says of her daughter Hye-seon, who killed herself last October. Three days after being beaten up by bullies at school, the girl from Cheongju City in North Chungcheong Province left a letter for her parents and jumped off the roof of the apartment building. Now Kim says she can’t lock the door. Hye-seon’s father Lee Gil-sun (62) was a truck driver but had to quit because he was in danger of a stroke and was too busy trying to uncover the truth of his daughter’s death. The couple’s debt soon snowballed to W20 million (US$20,000).

Packets of blood-pressure pills cover the floor of their home, and Hye-seon’s mother has not been sleeping well since her daughter died. Every morning at 3 a.m., the time Hye-seon killed herself, she wakes up in the belief that her daughter will come back. The couple read the last letter from their daughter again and again. “Mom and dad, I’m sorry. I hate school. I’m scared. I had a tough day today. If I’m born again as your daughter I’ll be good. I’m sorry and I love you.” It breaks their hearts every time. “Poor thing. How could she think of jumping down from so high? If she had only come to me for help,” Kim agonizes.
Something has to be done about the pressures of life in Korea, especially on students. The blame can be spread far and wide but it is far past the time for reform. The school system needs to be completely revamped. Teachers need to be held accountable for their actions and the actions of their students. Parents need to be held accountable for the bullying their children do. There is no simple answer to the entire equation, but there are simple things that could be done to drastically reduce the number of suicides. It is time to stop accepting bad behavior, period. Is this the entire solution? Of course not, but it would be a huge start.

I've written before about a family that I've been helping to immigrate to the US. They are just about finished, their paperwork having been accepted by the US. It has been a long three years. The reason I've taking such an interest is that they have one daughter who has downs syndrome. It is NOT severe, but she has been abused beyond in school, both by teachers and other students. Here situation makes you want to cry and I could easily see her committing suicide if it didn't change. Her mother has pulled her out of school, waiting to come to the US where she won't be beat up, shoved in the mud and forced to eat dirt, her teachers refusing to intervene.

Korea has got to change and change soon.