Suicide by KD

29 Mar

Suicide is something that has been in our world for hundreds of years. It has been recorded in history and has scarred the memories and emotions of millions of people. People of all walks of life have either committed or tried to commit suicide at one point of their life. Be it regret or sorrow, we know that these reasons point to the stress the mind goes through and that is what we will be looking at in this post. Today, we will be taking a specific look into the society of South Korea as it is something we all seem to be familiar with.   When people look at a country like Korea, they see it most often to not, as a “perfect country”. Low tax rates, low to none crime rates with near perfect transportation systems along with a top notch health insurance! So, Korea has a lot of good things for it. Then this question becomes quite unavoidable “why are Koreans in such a hurry to exit their lives?” The grim statistics have been become too familiar. South Korea’s suicide rate per 100,000 people was OECD leading 21.5 as of today and some of those deaths include A class celebrities living better than the billionaires in America, school children and even a former South Korean president. From what other Koreans I have talked to have said, it seems that the general idea people get of a “perfect country” is indeed appropriate. To casual viewers, it is common to see suicides in Korea as it is a trend and area well covered by local and international media but they will not understand it fully as it requires a deeper understanding of the society of Korea. Korea, as a society, shows an unimaginable level of ruthlessness and cruelty to those who lose out in the social competition. From the personal accounts I have collected from numerous Koreans, I have come to understand that it would be impossible to understand suicides in South Korea without knowing this: The Modern Korean society is premised on competition at a level unthinkable for most people outside of Korea, and absolutely no mercy is shown to those who lose. There have been many attempts to try and explain why Korea out of all other countries have such high suicide rates. From having such a low suicide rate at 1980, it jumped exponentially during the 1990’s. Explanations by experts have ranged from unwillingness of Koreans to discuss mental health, celebrity suicide affecting the general public, and even an genetic explaination saying that Asians have less “Long Genes” that produce serotonin, which regulates the mood. As much as these explanations seem to be correct in one way or another, they fail to explain the fundamental cause of the preponderance of suicide in Korea today. As to why they fail to explain the fundamental cause? It is because they do not explicate as to how the suicide rates jumped so high in just 3 decades. Genes are out of the question because genes could not possibly change in such a short amount of time and mental awareness was even less than today when it had very low suicide rates. Skipping all the long explainations, basically from my studies and observation, Korea’s unprecedented speed of modernization means that Korea’s social trends develop very fast and quickly spirals out of control — hence, the alarming increase in suicides in the last few decades, particularly since 1997. From a country no richer than an sub-Saharan African country, It jumped to becoming a 1st class rich country in less than 60 years. Of course, this means that social standards and beliefs must change with the advancement and enhancement of Korea. Korea’s process of modernization had no precedent in human history in terms of its magnitude and speed. This means that every social change that followed, say, a Western European country developing at a “normal” speed, happened to Korea in a super compressed time period. By studies and statistics, it is obvious that suicides are more prevalent in rich countries. This means that industrialization and growing wealth are positively correlated with increasing suicides. Emile Durkheim himself said that “suicide is a disease of modernity”. His prediction that higher education resulted in more suicide was indeed correct. Wealth is another important factor to consider as the richer a country would get, the more wealth and power a person would have to worry about.  The larger the magnitude of the increase in per ca-pita GDP and the such becomes, suicides become more rampant. Not only that, there are ample indications to show that late-developing countries suffer an increase of suicide rate far more dramatic than Durkheim has ever seen in late 19th century. (Just for a comparison : At the fastest rise, France’s male suicide rate increased by 78% over 40 years between 1871 and 1911. But in Russia, a late developing country, the male suicide rate increased by 227% in the 40 years between 1925 and 1965 and as for Korea’s suicide rate, it increased by 370% in the 23 years between 1986 and 2009.) But as much as the suicides point to the fast modernization of Korea and an exponential growth of wealth, it is not the wealth itself that causes increased suicide, but the process of change from a traditional to an industrial society that causes increased suicide. Without going into further detail and explanation about history and relation of topics and ideas, it is somewhat safe to assume that the extremely fast modernization along with the exponential growth of education, wealth and advancements in corporate areas caused a rapid suicide rise from the 60 year span of which Korea’s growth boomed out of the Korean war.

(Many Details have been removed to shorten the overall blog. Some details are subject to question as they are from personal inquiries and explanations but majority are accurate in history and the such.)

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