October 10, 2018 11:52
Korea has seen an alarming rise in suicide attempts among schoolchildren in recent years, despite sporadic campaigns to reduce academic stress and bullying at school.
According to a detailed analysis by the Education Ministry, suicide attempts surged from 37 in 2011 to 451 last year. The number of students who succeeded in killing themselves fell from 150 in 2011 to 93 in 2015 but then rose again to 114 last year.
One alarming trend is that children who make suicide attempts are getting younger and younger. High school students accounted for 47 percent, but the proportion of elementary schoolchildren is rising. In 2011, no elementary schoolkids tried to kill themselves but 19 did in 2015 and 36 last year. Out of the 114 students who took their own lives last year, five were still in elementary school.
The main reason seems to be intolerable academic pressure, compounded by bullying and family problems or alienation due to double-income parents who are rarely available to talk. Among the students who attempted suicide last year, 277 cited depression and anxiety and 125 anger.
But suicide is also dangerously fashionable, and exposure to harmful online content depicting or glorifying suicide also played a role. Early this year, a song became popular on YouTube that sounded like a children's song but featured the word "suicide" more than a dozen times. Teens also often share photos of self-harm on social media.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare and police monitored suicide-related content on the Internet during a two-week period in July and found 8,039 cases, up 38-fold from the same period of 2017. And 84 percent of the content depicted photos of self-harm.
Last month, lawmakers tabled a bill aimed at tagging suicide-related content as harmful.
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