The “Scourge of South Korea”: Stress and Suicide in Korean Society

Comments (22)
  1. Keelyn says:

    Thank you for this insightful piece. I am so glad I took the time to read it.

  2. Lianne says:

    You’ve summarised the key points very well! On the point of the government investing in its citizens, I’d also like to add the government will also need to rebuild ‘trust’ in its citizens as citizens are reluctant to seek professional help in fear that by doing so, their data may be used against them in their career. Until then, mental illness shall remain a double edge sword.

  3. Alexis says:

    This was worth the reading ! It’s devastating to see and hear that South Koreans are stressed and have high expectation of themselves. It’s like a competition for rank and gpa. In general, suicide is everywhere and it needs to be talk about more to parents, teachers, elders, and of course students at all ages.

  4. B Kim says:

    I don’t believe this article is accurate. Too many fantastic statistics! (South) Korean (high) school year is not 11 months. It’s something close to 9 months with summer and winter breaks each about 40 days, and a two-week spring break. (And, 2 weeks in February between winter and spring breaks are also practically a break-even teachers don’t teach anything in class.) Also, I don’t know who told you that Korean students study 16 hours a days, but (besides the fact that it is hard to collect data on studying hours) that doesn’t sound humanly possible. I can believe that students may study that much right before exams. Not on most days. But, I should concede that (South) Korean students do spend comparatively much time in class (of some kind).

    Stress could be real, but teenagers are often made of stronger stuff than you think: often they simply accept the reality (and in fact, often they enjoy going to prep classes, and so on: no parents to watch you there!)

    And more to the point, Korea doesn’t have the highest teenager suicide rate among OECD countries. As far as I know, normally New Zealand tops the list along with Finland, and so on (but it depends on the year). I give my sources:

    People speculate, but no one seems to be sure. After all, studying suicides is a depressing science. And, where is Korea in that list? Right in the middle.

    But it is very true that Korea tops the list of overall suicide rate, and there is a clear and well-documented reason: poverty in old age. (In fact, except for the elderly, suicide rate in other age groups in Korea is quite comparable to other countries.) As Korea was very poor not too long ago, old age pension was not available or uncommon. It was introduced in 80’s, and became more common in 90’s and on. But, since it is based on your own contribution, if you haven’t made contribution to your pension, you don’t get any. Therefore, many seniors (many of whom became old before pension became common) lack pension, thus are extremely poor. (In fact, that was No.1 cause of poverty in most developed countries before pension became universal.)

    The condition is getting better fast as more people subscribe to pension fund. (But, in Korea, contributing to pension is not mandatory, so a large number of people don’t have one.)

  5. Hyung Yong Kim says:

    I feel blessed of having this article in my hand. It’s very meaningful to understand my students.
    In fact as a school counselor in a public middle school, I am struggling with such students almost everyday. In the structure of our school system, bracing it by myself is beyond my ability. In the past years, so often I was stuck in similar problems caused by stress and violence.
    Anyway it’s better to feel that I am not alone. And it’s true because I have good friends in the school better off than I.
    I hope that the true value of life should be taught to all the students in my country including their family through both schools and societies, not focused on their achievements only but also on their rejoicing the works they choose. So be happy!

  6. gertrude jacksondavies says:

    I know family is important but I think the government should provide for the people because Korea is a very successful and talented country I will put all my effort to get there.

  7. sdsdl says:

    Hello; thank you for the article. could you re-link the source for the 10-19 suicide rate? the link leads to the WHO report but I was not able to find the number in it…. I am a researcher and this info would be really useful. Thank you.

  8. Talin says:

    Hi freinds i also heard about alot of people from korea even celebrities are ending they’re lives it’s from all walks of life and the reason is not so clear.the family conection and the lack of knowing the meaning of life might be the deeper source for that..all we need in the world is connection of care and love between us .
    Im as a kpop lover was amazed by those stories.
    I wish for all of humanity to come to love and care that for sure brings alot of happiness.

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