Tag Archives: suicide


Two Dead in Las Vegas Murder-Suicide

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

A woman and man died last Thursday evening in an apparent murder-suicide, according to the Las Vegas police.

Jiyeon Lee, 23, and Won Jae Lee, 26, were identified by the Clark County coroner’s office. They were found dead together in their home after a friend came by after not hearing from one of the victims in three days. Officers responded around 5 p.m. to 8900 block of Veneroso Street to investigate.

“It was a shock to pull up to the house and the whole neighborhood was quarantined,” said neighbor Damion Grau. “Nothing like this happens in this neighborhood.”

Police said that the two victims were dating, and it appeared a physical altercation had preceded the shooting in the home’s garage, according to the evidence found inside the home. They believe the woman shot the man in the head and neck before shooting herself in the head.

Photo courtesy of Review Journal

Yongsang Soh

Family of Deceased Student Seeks Settlement from University


The family of a 22-year-old Washington University student who died last year is seeking $50 million from the school, according to the campus newspaper, Student Life. Soh’s parents allege that the university is partly responsible for their son’s death, which was initially ruled a suicide.

Yongsang Soh, a philosophy, neuroscience and psychology major from South Korea, fell from the 23rd floor of an off-campus apartment in October 2013. While his death was initially ruled as a suicide, a private investigation by Soh’s parents found the presence of LSD in their son’s system, and the state recently changed his cause of death to “undetermined.”

This past summer, Soh’s family, described as a “prominent South Korean family” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, approached Washington University and proposed a $50 million settlement in damages. In exchange, the family apparently promised not to sue the university or publicize their concerns about what they called a “lax enforcement of discipline.”

Their concerns refer to the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity’s Phi chapter, which was kicked off of Fraternity Row in 2008 after a criminal drug investigation resulted in a number of arrests, according to Belleville News-Democrat. In 2012, the fraternity was completely disbanded by its national office and suspended by the university after an investigation found “significant violations.”

The family’s argument centers on Washington University’s allegedly “lenient behavior” towards the fraternity. Soh was an active member before the fraternity lost its recognition, and a document the family delivered to the university in June connected the presence of LSD in Soh’s system to Sigma Alpha Mu. On the night of his death, the document states Soh spent time with a number of students with the fraternity.

“He (Soh) was not a drug user,” said Albert Watkins, the family’s attorney, “he had no history of drug use; he had no prior predisposition to alcohol abuse or drug abuse. And that’s what struck the Soh family as being completely out of the ordinary.”

By joining Sigma Alpha Mu, Soh was exposed to a group “with a longstanding and notorious history of drug use, distribution, and exploitation of minors,” the family claimed in the document. “The University chose not to refer these matters to the proper authorities for criminal prosecution as would otherwise be required by any other law enforcement authority.”

The $50 million was chosen to be a financially meaningful amount to the University, according to Watkins. In the future, Soh had been expected to take over the family business, a chain of Papa John’s restaurants in South Korea.

Watkins added that the “primary goal of the Soh family is to implement change necessary to prevent this type of tragedy from occurring again. As part of that demand … there was a demand that the University demonstrate accountability in a meaningful fashion.”

The school rejected the $50 million settlement offer during the summer, and last week, university spokeswoman Jill Friedman said in a statement that they did take the proper steps in disciplinary action, including referring cases to the local prosecutor. The school would not comment on pending legal matters, she added.

St. Louis Police also confirmed that while they are not seeking a criminal suspect for Soh’s death, their investigation is “active and ongoing.”

Known by his friends and instructors as “Young,” Soh is remembered to have a positive attitude and was an avid fan of Cardinals baseball. An international student adviser described Soh as a “really sweet young man, polite and always happy and upbeat, even when dealing with the hassles that immigration paperwork can involve.” Soh was also a member of the Korean Undergraduate Business Association and part of the Korean International Student Society.

Photo courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Paul Kim

Body of Rutgers Student Paul Kim Found in Hudson River


Authorities recovered the body of a 20-year-old Rutgers student from the Hudson River in New York City last week and later determined the manner of death to be suicide, according to the Daily Targum and Cliff View Pilot.

Paul J. Kim was last seen riding his bicycle toward New Jersey on the south walkway of the George Washington Bridge last Tuesday at around 10:20 a.m., according to a passerby. Authorities said the same passerby then found the bicycle abandoned moments later and notified the Port Authority Police Department.

After family members were able to identify Kim’s bicycle, search teams then found Kim’s body near the Intrepid Museum later that day. Authorities ruled Kim’s death a suicide the following day, believing that he jumped from the bridge.

Kim’s older brother, Christopher Kim, shared the tragic news on Twitter.

“To my little brother, my best friend, Paul J. Kim,” he said in a tweet on Oct. 22, “[I love you], man. Rest in Paradise [with] grandma.”

Others offered their condolences to the Kim family and expressed their grief over Kim’s death.

“It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of the death of Paul J. Kim, a third-year student from Fairview, New Jersey, who was studying in the School of Arts and Sciences,” said Rutgers Chancellor Richard Edwards in an email. “As a community, we mourn the loss of this gifted young man and offer our heartfelt sympathies to Paul’s family and friends.”

Kim was described by his friends on social media as a “genuinely good person” and “one of the nicest and selfless kids I knew.”

In memory of his brother, Christopher Kim created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for his brother’s memorial. The fundraiser had an initial goal of $8,000, but it raised nearly $10,000 in one day. As of Monday, it now stands at $11,345.

“I cannot believe the overwhelming amount of support from friends and family both here in our small town to around the entire country,” Christopher Kim wrote on the GoFundMe page. “You are all a living testament to the legacy of endless love that Paul inspired in each of us. … Thank you for supporting our family.”

The Kim family held a wake last Friday and a funeral on Saturday morning.

Rutgers students can contact Rutgers Counseling, ADAP, and Psychological Services (CAPS) at (848) 932-7884 or visit 17 Senior Street in New Brunswick.

The university administration reminded students that counselors are available to “any student who is grieving in this sudden loss, or who is in need of counseling for any reason.” Students can also reach out to to their Residence Life staff if they live on-campus, or the Dean of Students if commuting or residing off-campus, if they just wish to speak to someone.

Photo courtesy of New Brunswick Today

South Korea Concert Accident

K-pop Concert Planner Found Dead in Apparent Suicide After 16 Die

KIM TONG-HYUNG, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean man involved in planning an outdoor pop concert where 16 people were killed after falling through a ventilation grate was found dead Saturday in an apparent suicide, officials said, as doctors treated eight others facing life-threatening injuries from the disaster.

The man, 37, an employee of the Gyeonggi Institute of Science and Technology Promotion, was found dead at around 7 a.m. in Seongnam, the city south of Seoul where Friday’s accident occurred, said city spokesman Kim Nam-jun.

The site of his death was not far from where 16 people watching a performance by 4Minute, a girls band that is popular across Asia, were killed when the ventilation grate they were standing on collapsed. Eleven other people were seriously injured.

It was believed that the man, who was questioned by police Friday night over the accident, leaped from the top of a 10-story building, police inspector Park Jeong-ju said.

Gyeonggi Institute of Science and Technology Promotion was one of the sponsors of the concert, which was organized by the news site Edaily and was part of a local festival. About 700 people had gathered to watch the concert, which was abruptly halted after the accident happened.

In a televised briefing on Saturday, Seongnam City spokesman Kim Nam-jun said there was a possibility that the death toll from the accident could rise. Of the 11 people treated at hospitals, eight were dealing with life-threatening injuries to the abdomens or lungs, Kim said.

Most of those who were killed were men in their 30s and 40s, while five were women in their 20s and 30s, fire officials said.

Photos of the accident scene showed a deep concrete shaft under the broken grate. Kim said it was believed that the grate collapsed under the weight of the people.

A video recorded by someone at the concert that was shown on the YTN television network showed the band continuing to dance for a while in front of a crowd that appeared to be unaware of the accident.

Dozens of people were shown standing next to the ventilation grate, gazing into the dark gaping hole where people had been standing to watch the performance. YTN said the ventilation grate was about 3 to 4 meters (10 to 12 feet) wide. Photos apparently taken at the scene showed that the ventilation grate reached to the shoulders of many passers-by.

The collapse came as South Korea is still struggling with the aftermath of a ferry disaster in April that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

For a time, the sinking jolted South Korea into thinking about safety issues that had been almost universally overlooked as the country rose from poverty and war to an Asian power.

The tragedy exposed regulatory failures that appear to have allowed the ferry Sewol to set off with far more cargo than it could safely carry. Family members say miscommunications and delays during rescue efforts doomed their loved ones.

Analysts say many safety problems in the country stem from little regulation, light punishment for violators and wide ignorance about safety in general — and a tendency to value economic advancement over all else.


Associated Press writer Youkyung Lee contributed to this report. Photo courtesy of Lee Jin-man/AP. 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Queens Murder-Suicide Body Bag

Family Found Dead in Queens Apartment Fire, Murder-Suicide Suspected


A Queens man stabbed his wife and teen son to death before setting their apartment ablaze and slashing his own throat in a grisly murder-suicide, said the New York Police Department (NYPD).

Jong-hoon Lee, 50, was a truck driver who was reportedly going through financial woes and struggling to find work. According to The New York Times, detectives found a blood-stained and singed suicide note written in Korean inside Lee’s pocket.

“If I die by myself, it will cause too many problems for my child and my wife,” the NYPD translation of the note read. Therefore, it said, “we all have to leave.”

Sung Lee and Brian Lee
Sung-hae Lee with her son Brian Lee. (Photo via The Korea Times)

The fire broke out at around 4:50 a.m. on Sept. 9 on the sixth-floor at a Flushing apartment on Roosevelt Ave, said police sources. Firefighters found Lee’s body stacked on top of the bodies of his wife, Sung-hae Lee, 54, and his son Brian Lee, 16, inside the living room. All three had stab wounds, and a bloody knife was found at the scene.

According to family friends, Lee’s wife worked at a nail salon and his son Brian was a junior at Brooklyn Technical High School. The two were active members of their church.

Longtime neighbor Lo Lee, who has no family relations with the deceased, said he heard a disturbance coming from the apartment early Tuesday morning.

“I heard some banging. It sounded like glass breaking,” Lo Lee told New York Daily News through a translator. He added that the crime scene, which he saw later in the morning, was gruesome and had “blood everywhere.”

The police said they found no history of domestic incident reports or police responses at the residence. However, they did discover records of a 2005 bankruptcy with about $100,000 in debt, as reported by NY Daily News.

Notably, another murder-suicide occurred in the same neighborhood only the evening before, in which a Chinese man fatally shot his girlfriend and then killed himself. Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said the timing of the two incidents was especially unfortunate since they happened during the Chuseok and Moon Festivals, holidays known for their happy family gatherings.

Three firefighters sustained minor injuries while extinguishing the fire and were hospitalized. The police said the investigation was still ongoing.

Featured photo via Bruce Cotler of NY Daily News.


Dr. Esther Oh Talks About Suicide

Pictured above is a yellow ribbon, an emblem for suicide awareness and prevention in America. (Photo via Evansville PTA)


A few weeks ago, my friend called to cancel our lunch date. She said her uncle had passed away, and she had to help the family with funeral preparations. A week later, we met up, and she quietly disclosed that her uncle had died by hanging himself in his house, while his wife was away at church. She said the family knew that he was depressed, but didn’t realize how severe it was. She admitted they told other people that he died of a heart attack because they were too ashamed to say that he committed suicide. My friend sadly noted, “We wonder if he would still be alive today if he got the help he needed.”

Last year, I wrote an article titled “Opening the Dialogue on Suicide.” Over the past few months, the theme of suicide has popped up more than once in my personal life, as well as made headlines in the media (most recently with Robin Williams’ death), and I felt this topic deserved another look. It is well known that South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

Some of the high-profile ones include the suicides of former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, who jumped to his death from a mountain, the famous Korean actress Choi Jin-shil, who hanged herself, and Kang Min-gyu, the high school vice principal who survived the ferry sinking only to take his own life. I read that the suicide rates in South Korea increased after each of these events. I know that discussing suicide can be a sensitive topic, but we cannot delude ourselves into thinking that suicide will go away on its own.

As a psychiatrist, hearing such stories, especially the ones close to home, breaks my heart. It makes me sad to think that suicide is considered a solution for people going through tough times. Sometimes, it makes me question my professional skills and the positive impact I have on society. Other times, I wonder how one’s cultural mindset and upbringing influence our beliefs about suicide. After the discussion with my friend, I realized how much the word “shame” is linked to the experience of suicide in our community. As with my friend’s family, Koreans tend to hide the truth out of fear this will negatively affect the family’s reputation, that others will think there is something wrong with them.

But the fact is that suicide is more common than we realize, and if you haven’t personally experienced someone close to you attempting or committing suicide, you probably have a friend or co-worker who has. It is important for us to strategize ways to increase suicide awareness in our community and welcome open discussions about it. If not, we continue to perpetuate the stigma behind mental health issues and treatment.

I ran across an article published this year in the International Journal of Mental Health System, which revealed that many Korean college students believe that suicide is permissible and predictable. In their research, co-authors Kristen Kim and Jong-Ik Park found that these students perceive that suicide is within a person’s rights and that people often communicate their suicidal intentions to others before killing themselves.

It was shocking to hear that people accept suicide as a way of “taking responsibility” or “one’s right.” This article also got me wondering how often people hear about a person’s suicidal plan, but don’t take it seriously or ignore it. Some people fear that discussions about suicide will plant ideas in people’s minds or give them the false impression that suicide is tolerated. Contrary to beliefs, the purpose of suicide awareness and prevention is to inform people that suicide happens, that there is help and other options, and that they are not alone.

By talking openly about the issue, instead of hiding it, I hope we, as a community, make the effort to learn about suicide and work toward its prevention—by learning the warning signs, being informed about the resources out there, and taking the initiative to talk to people who are in trouble and get them the help they need. Suicide is not the only solution or the way out of shame, despair or conflict. There are effective treatment options, such as therapy and medications to help individuals work through the negative feelings that drive them to suicidal thoughts. Making that first step to reach out can be the hardest part of treatment.

One of the main reasons I started this column is to work toward normalizing and promoting the discussion of mental health issues, as well as the use of mental health services. My hope is that members of our community see that reaching out for help is a sign of personal strength and courage, rather than weakness or a deficiency. Just as we seek treatment for cancer or diabetes, we should tend to our mental health needs, as well. And if we see a relative or friend in trouble, it could go a long way just to talk to him or her and offer your support. You could quite literally save a life.

For more information on suicide, visit:



If there is a life-threatening emergency, make sure to call 911 or proceed to the nearest emergency room.

Dr. Esther Oh, a psychiatrist at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, writes a regular mental health column for KoreAm. If you have questions, please email her at dr.oh@iamkoream.com. All correspondence will be strictly confidential and only accessed by Dr. Oh. Opinions expressed here represent those solely of the author.

This article was published in the August/September 2014 issue of KoreAm, under the title, “Let’s Talk About Suicide.” Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the August/Sept. issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).


‘Well-Dying’ Courses Offered in SKorea to Counter High Suicide Rate Among Elderly


It’s well-documented that South Korea has the highest suicide rate among developed countries. But if you parse the numbers, there’s this equally disturbing discovery: it also has the highest elderly suicide rate. Nearly 5,000 people over the age of 60 took their own lives in 2012, up from 4,300 in 2007.

Such alarming figures have prompted the spread of “well-dying” courses, where the elderly can learn about how to appreciate life and make peace with their mortality, according to a recent article in Bloomberg.

Park Kyung-rye, 80, enrolled in one of these “well-dying” classes after having suicidal thoughts. The widower, a retired house cleaner with no pension, told Bloomberg that her “loneliness” pushed her to the edge. But, through the class, she joined about 20 other senior citizens in activities like writing their autobiographies, recording video messages to their families and even visiting a crematorium.

“I rediscovered life in the light of death,” she told Bloomberg. She also promised to “live as happily as possible until a natural death claims me.”

The South Korean government is funding these “well-dying” courses (a play off of the expression “well-being), which are cropping up throughout the country, in the hope of reversing the elderly suicide trend. But it’s a trend that’s being unfortunately fueled by alarming poverty rates among seniors.

While intense education pressure is often blamed for suicide among young South Koreans, experts point to poverty as a  major cause among senior citizens, the Bloomberg report said. The poverty rate among the elderly was 49 percent in 2012, making it the highest among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) members. The OECD estimates that 37 percent of Korea’s population will be older than 65 by 2050, bringing even more of an urgency to the issue.

“We’re headed for one unhappy society that’s both aged and suicidal,” Lee Jung Min, professor of labor economics at Seoul’s Sogang University, told Bloomberg. Lee went on to warn that, if this trend continues, the nation will see ripple effects in multiple aspects of society.

Financial Times article noted that, as South Korea has emerged as a more materialistic and highly competitive society, more traditional values like filial duty seem to be falling away. It cited a 2010 government survey that reported only 36 percent of respondents saw it as their obligation to care for their parents. In 1998, that figure was 90 percent. Meanwhile, the Times article said that spending for South Korean children’s education is climbing at a dramatic rate, often leaving little money for elder members of the family.

Caring for the elderly population emerged as a major issue in the 2012 presidential election, and President Park Geun-hye promised in her campaign to boost social spending, including for seniors. Only one-fifth of senior citizens receive a regular pension, said the Bloomberg article, citing OECD figures, while 70 percent receive a minimum old-age payout. Recently, Korea’s parliament agreed to increase this monthly allowance to 200,000 won, which amounts to less than $200.

Photo via Family Edge/mercatornet.com



Family Of Jiwon Lee To Launch Memorial Scholarship Fund In Her Honor

Image via Facebook

The family of Jiwon Lee, the 29-year-old Columbia University student found dead Saturday afternoon in the Hudson River, will be using the donations they received from a GoFundMe page to set up a memorial scholarship fund in her honor. The donations had originally been used to pay for a private investigator, and since the page went up in early April, nearly 1,200 people have donated over $87,000.

“Thank you for your continued prayers, donations and support,” Matt Lee, Jiwon Lee’s brother, wrote on Monday. “Unfortunately, Jiwon, beloved daughter, sister and friend has gone on to a better place. Our family thanks you at this time for respecting our privacy. We are currently planning a memorial service to honor Jiwon and will post further details as soon as possible.”


Lee, a fourth-year dental student who had been missing since early April, had reportedly been suffering from depression and previously attempted suicide. The NYPD found her body floating in the Hudson River off of West 86th Street at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. The cause of her death was still being investigated as of Sunday night, although police said they found a suicide note in her apartment. The American Student Dental Association (ASDA) released a statement upon learning of Lee’s death. She had served as the 2013-14 president of the organization, as well as serving as an appointed member of the American Dental Association’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examination. Before enrolling in dental school, Lee had been a middle school math teacher with AmeriCorps. She often noted that the experience helped to her leadership style. “Lee will be missed by the leaders, members and staff she touched during her involvement with ASDA,” the statement continued. To honor Lee at her memorial, her family is asking anyone who knew her to share funny memories and stories at weloveyoujiwon@gmail.com. You can find more information on the Jiwon Lee – Missing Person Facebook page. [ad#336]