The recent suicide of the popular TV celebrity known as the Happiness Evangelist has elicited many questions and provided a topic for much conversation. A columnist in the Peace Weekly uses this tragic incident as the introduction to his article, for the series on the culture of life, which focuses on the frequent occurrences of suicide in Korea.
In comparison to countries like Greece and Mexico, Korea last year had ten times more suicides, a total of 15,000, about 30 killing themselves daily, many of them either young or old. The number one reason for the deaths of those from 20 to 30 years of age is suicide.
The article notes that in the West those who kill themselves do it, mostly for philosophical reasons, a despairing response to perceiving life as meaningless. In Korea, it is more likely to be alienation in the family or workplace, or loneliness, or poverty and disease that provoke the drastic step. Because of this difference, the numbers of suicides in the West are less but also more difficult to work for a decrease, but in Korea, we have larger numbers but if efforts are made, we will see a decrease. It is for this reason that we see suicide as societal murder.
The Korean government has taken an interest in this societal problem since 2004. But even with a five-year plan to prevent suicides, over the years there has not been a decrease of suicides but an increase. Although efforts have been made to recruit different sectors of society to help in this effort, there has been little change because of a lack of specialists and finances.
Catholics see suicide as a great problem, and we can't remain unconcerned. Up until now, the Catholic Church cannot be said to have done all that it could in this area of life that calls for justice and for demonstrating the love we should have for others. How can we remain unmoved by the large numbers of young and old killing themselves? The young are the future of the country, and the old should be enjoying their twilight years without having to contend with problems of health, poverty and loneliness.
There are some hopeful signs. Even though past governmental efforts have not been successful, recently the government has commissioned the Catholic Church to work through the 'One heart and One Body Movement' in setting up the Center for the Prevention of Suicides. This should produce some concrete results. The Church will also use Cyberspace, along with education programs for the young, and training programs to get qualified people involved in preventing suicides.
Life is a gift from God, and the Church should be doing all possible to help those who because of circumstances have difficulty in seeing this.The Church with government help should be able to work in a manner that befits the situation in which Korea finds itself.