Tag Archives: suicide


‘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]


Jiwon Lee, Missing New York Dental Student, Found Dead In Hudson River

Image via Facebook

Jiwon Lee, the Columbia dental student first reported missing on April 2, was found dead Sundayafternoon in the Hudson River, according to a police report.

Lee, 29, was wearing a sweater, underwear and boots as she was floating in the river off of West 86th Street,  the New York Daily News reports. Prior to going missing, she reportedly suffered from depression and attempted suicide. A medical examiner is looking into the cause of her death, a NYPD spokesperson said.


“Thank you for your continued prayers, donations, and support,” wrote Matt Lee, Jiwon Lee’s brother, who set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for a private investigator to look into his sister’s case. The page reportedly raised over $87,595 as of Monday morning.

“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.”


Jiwon Lee was last seen on April 1 when she left her West 98th Street apartment in New York and never returned. The New York Daily initially reported that she left a note in her apartment, saying she was “sorry she did not live up to expectations” and that she “could not live anymore.”

Lee, also known for her work as a comedian in the New York area, was just weeks away from graduating Columbia’s dental school when she went missing.


묵념하는 시민들

Female Officer’s Suicide Raises Issue of Sexual Harassment in SKorean Military

A South Korean military investigation has determined that a female officer who committed suicide last October allegedly because of repeated sexual harassment died while on active duty. She will be buried at the Daejeon National Cemetery, where military personnel are laid to rest, according to the Korea JoongAng Daily.

The 28-year-old female officer, only identified by her last name Oh, was found dead Oct. 16, 2013, inside a car in a parking lot in Hwacheon. She reportedly killed herself by burning charcoal in thevehicle.

Oh’s diary, notes and suicide letter indicated that verbal and sexual harassment from a commanding officer took its toll on her after 10 months, during which she said she was groped and verbally abused, authorities said. She wrote in her suicide note that her superior, whose last name was Noh, demanded that she spends “one night with him.”


The note also said that, when Oh rejected Noh, he punished her by making her work overtime, touching her inappropriately and harassing her with suggestive remarks. The case helped raise the profile of the issue of sexual harassment in the South Korean military. Although Noh was indicted last November on charges of sexual harassment, the court only sentenced him to two years in prison, and four years probation—a verdict Oh’s family and many in the public considered too light.

Investigators said that at least six other female officers were also harassed by Noh last year, and three of them have pressed charges against him, the newspaper reported.



SBS Pulls Plug On Dating Reality Show After Contestant’s Suicide

Amid fierce public criticism, South Korean broadcaster SBS announced it was canceling a reality dating show after one contestant recently took her own life.

The 29-year-old woman, surnamed Chun, apparently committed suicide the night before the last day of production of “Jjak” on the resort island of Jeju. Crew members found her in a locked bathroom with ahair dryer cord around her neck.


SBS, one of Korea’s three major networks, apologized to viewers in a statement and promised to take steps to prevent future incidents, according to AFP.

The suicide shocked many Korean citizens, some of whom said the reality show put contestants under too much pressure.

The participants, clad in matching uniforms, are put through various physical challenges in hopes of getting a date out of one of their fellow contestants, before making a final choice at the end of the week.

SBS did not accept any direct responsibility for her suicide, but newspapers have carried interviews with past participants who spoke of feeling bullied and humiliated.

Chun was favoured by three male contestants at the beginning of the shoot, but they had a change of heart and ended up competing over another woman.

Chun told her mother in her last phone conversation she would not be able to live in Korea if the show aired, AFP reported. Her friends said Chun complained producers were trying to portray her as the tragic, unpopular girl.