The Ministry of Health and Welfare on Monday announced a set of press guidelines for reporting suicide to mark World Suicide Prevention Day on Tuesday. They aim to discourage copycats and include minimizing the number of reports, avoiding graphic descriptions, and avoiding use of the word "suicide."
Korea has the highest suicide rate in the OECD, and though the rate is on the decline in most advanced countries, it has been increasing steadily here, with 31.7 out of every 100,000 Koreans taking their own lives.
In 2011, an average of 15,906 people committed suicide in Korea, which translates to about one person every 30 minutes.
The ministry wants closer cooperation from the media, religious groups and civic activists to create a broad safety net to stem the rise in suicide.
The guidelines also call on the press to show consideration for the surviving family and friends of suicides, and to avoid using reports of suicide as a way to draw attention to social issues. They exhort journalists to provide as much information as possible about suicide prevention and exercise extra caution when posting reports on the Internet.
"Due to the Werther effect where people are swayed by reports of celebrities committing suicide, some studies suggest that the suicide of one famous person causes 606 more copycat suicides on average," said Lee Joong-kyu at the ministry. "We must be especially careful when reporting the celebrity suicides."