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BUT FOR a pal alerting the police, the 2 teenage women might need gone by with it. As an alternative, they climbed again over the railings of the Hannam Bridge in Seoul, South Korea’s capital, ending what would have been a live-streamed suicide try on Might fifth. A couple of weeks earlier, one other younger girl broadcast herself on Instagram as she jumped to her demise from a constructing within the capital’s rich Gangnam district. All three had been members of Despair Gallery, an internet neighborhood for individuals with mental-health issues.
Such incidents are a part of a worrying pattern. South Korea has lengthy had an unusually excessive suicide price for a member of the OECD, a membership of largely wealthy international locations. Earlier than 2018, solely in Lithuania was the issue extra extreme. But whereas each international locations’ numbers had been trending downwards for a decade, from 2018 South Korea’s started climbing once more, overtaking Lithuania to grow to be the best within the OECD. Though males continued to kill themselves extra usually than girls, their numbers didn’t rise. The rise displays increased charges of suicide amongst girls, particularly younger ones.
Suicide charges for ladies beneath 40 have been rising in different international locations, too. The Economist compiled knowledge from 18 international locations that had been keen to share their knowledge (see our interactive chart above). We discovered that between 2018 and 2020 suicide charges throughout 17 international locations, not together with South Korea, rose barely from a mean of 4.6 to 4.7 per 100,000 individuals. However in South Korea it rose from 13.2 to 16.
It’s not clear precisely why the uptick occurred. One trigger often is the more and more contradictory expectations pressured on girls. Regardless of excelling in South Korea’s hyper-competitive training system, they face discrimination within the workplace and the presumption that they must be elevating youngsters somewhat than working. At house they’re burdened with the majority of home labour and child-rearing. But as single-wage households grow to be rarer, they’re more and more anticipated to convey house the bacon as effectively. It doesn’t assist that many are topic to sexist magnificence requirements, misogyny, sexual abuse and a tradition that indulges abhorrent practices, corresponding to spycam porn. The prominence of South Korea’s #MeToo motion, which kicked off shortly earlier than the uptick, has raised consciousness of many of those issues—however not fastened them. And young women are additionally extra more likely to be in precarious work, that means they suffered disproportionately when the pandemic hit.
In April the South Korean authorities introduced its fifth “Grasp Plan for Prevention of Suicide”. Psychological-health check-ups will now be accessible each two years, somewhat than each decade. Past that, the plan proposes completely different approaches for the younger and outdated respectively. (Over-70s have the best suicide charges in Korea.) For ladies of their 20s and 30s who dwell alone, South Korea will make accessible extra counselling and remedy, generally together with members of the family. Providing girls assist to handle grim circumstances is an effective begin. However a severe plan would want to sort out the underlying causes for his or her distress, too.■