Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Korea Without Suicides

For some time, the Korean Catholic Church, in an effort to conscientize the public on the problem of suicides, has joined with other groups and other religions, and with the government to try to eradicate the problem-- the goal, a society without suicides. Last year, the Catholic Press published several articles and continues to do so, on different aspects of the problem, and the Church has recently set up a center with a hotline and programs to provide counseling.

The rate of suicides in Korea is one of the highest in the world, about 12,000 suicides ever year. Suicide places fourth as the reason given for overall deaths, and for those in their twenties and thirties it is the number one reason.

A doctor who worked in preventive medicine in the Catholic Medical School, and is on the Committe for Life, has written in the
Peace Weekly that with the growth of material wealth and the aging of the population, there is an increase in the number of suicides also in other countries. For each hundred thousand deaths, the usual number of deaths from suicide is 20, with a slight drop after one hundred thousand. In Korea, there has been no drop but an increase from the year 2000.

In addition to the problem of suicide in our society, it is generally recognized that Koreans
do not have a high respect for life when compared to other countries. This is reflected in not being particularly concerned about the health of the aged, which is especially bothersome in a society with a rapid increase of the aged population.

The industrial development of the country from the 1960s has been cited as perhaps the prime reason for this callousness toward life. What was seen as important at that time was economic development so that the country could compete with the other industrialized countries. As a result, there has been an increase of abortions, pollution, occupational injuries, and educating specialists, while neglecting educating for a mature value system and a people-friendly culture.

We are told as Catholics that life is precious, that it is something we have to constantly preach. The Church is helping with their hotline center, but the media must also do their part. Often the way suicides are written up make them look heroic, an act of courage. This has to change. We are
dealing here not only with a person who dies but with their family and friends. They are almost always traumatized by the suicide and the effects will be felt for generations. Our society must take note of this and decide to do more to realize the goal of a society without suicides.

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