A religious sister working in a diocesan pastoral center for the prevention of suicides writes in the View from the Ark of the Catholic Times that we need others to live a full life. She mentions last month in a city of Korea a man 47 years old with a chronic kidney problem was found dead in his house and the police say he had been dead for a week and are still investigating.
In the same city on the same day in another house, an 81-year-old man, dead for a week, was found. Five years before he was operated on and never really recovered. He lived alone and the police are investigating the reason for death and talking to the acquaintances of the bereaved.
This is not a rare occurrence. According to government statistics in 2011, 639 died alone, without any known relatives. In 2016, 1032 died alone, twice the previous figure. Loneliness and dying alone was seen as a problem of the poor, sick and old persons, but that is no longer the case. Nowadays, the divorced, unemployed, and those facing financial ruin are found dying alone.
Last year in Seoul 162 died alone and 137 of them were men and 36% of them were in their 50s. The social network has broken down. Farming areas of the country still have a place for the aged and the welfare of the old is still a big concern. However, when the young or middle-aged are unemployed, living alone, poor and where contact with others is limited, we have the dying alone situation occurring.
The situation is not limited only to those living alone. According to the OECD (Better Life Index), Koreans in comparison to other countries in the support they have in community is the next to last of the 38 countries in the OECD. To the question: When in difficulty do you have persons to go to? 75.8 % percent answered Yes. The average for the OECD was 88%. Two years early in Korea, it was 77% who answered yes.
One in four respondents said they had no one to ask for help and are not receiving any social or psychological support.
Many who feel the crisis of life and think about suicide do not want to burden their families with their pain and suffering.One can sympathize with their feelings but often their choice gives the family more pain.
Pope Francis in his visit to Korea in 2014 said in a meeting of religious leaders: "Life is a road we can't walk alone. We need each other we need to live in relationships with others."
She closes with the hope that even though we are a burden to others, in need of help, we should ask for help. Our society benefits and coldness and loneliness will be greatly diminished.