September 26, 2013 11:08
Korea's suicide rate dropped for the first time last year after half a decade of steadily increasing figures. Some 14,160 people killed themselves in 2012, down 11 percent from 15,906 in 2011.
According to death data released by Statistics Korea on Wednesday, altogether 267,221 people died across the country last year. The suicide rate per 100,000 people stood at 28.1, down 11.8 percent from the previous year.
The suicide rate fell for the first time since 2006. In 2009, the rate soared nearly 20 percent due to the global financial crisis and a copycat effect after actress Choi Jin-sil killed herself.
Experts believe last year's drop shows the benefit of banning an agricultural chemical that had been often used as a means of suicide.
Ahn Yong-min, a professor of medicine who chairs the Korea Suicide Prevention Society, said, "The suicide rate dropped significantly as the result of the suspension of the production of Gramoxone in 2011 and a sales ban last year."
Gramoxone, a herbicide, is so toxic that even a small dose can kill.
But Korea still had the highest suicide rate in the OECD. Japan came second with the rate of 20.9 per 100,000 people, 7.2 fewer than Korea.
Meanwhile, the proportion of those who died of cancer has dropped for the third year running. Cancer caused 27.6 percent of all deaths last year with 73,759 deaths, down from 27.8 percent in 2011.
The rate of cancer deaths was 16.2 percent in 1990 and peaked at 28.3 percent in 2009.
Doctors attribute the fall to early diagnosis and improved treatment.
But cancer was still the No. 1 killer of Koreans. Cardiac diseases ranked second at 9.9 percent, followed by cerebrovascular diseases (9.6 percent) and suicide (5.3 percent).
By age group, gastric cancer was the most common among those in their 30s, liver cancer for those in their 40s and 50s and lung cancer for over-60s.
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