Tag Archives: suicide

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]


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.