South Korea’s Bizarre Suicide Spike

“Don’t commit suicide, because you might change your mind two weeks later.” —Art Buchwald

In A Nutshell

Choi Jin-Sil was a leading South Korean actress of movies and television. After becoming embroiled in a scandal, Choi hanged herself on October 2, 2008. The aftermath of her suicide was devastating; for approximately a month afterward, the nation of South Korea saw a 70 percent increase in people taking their own lives.

The Whole Bushel

There are several schools of thought regarding suicide; some people believe it to be the ultimate act of selfishness, leaving survivors to a lifetime of grief. Regardless of one’s perspective, we can all agree that suicide’s consequences reach far beyond a single death. In few places has this become more grimly obvious than South Korea.

On October 2, 2008, Choi Jin-Sil, one of South Korea’s most famous actresses, hanged herself in her home in Seoul. Choi had been involved in scandals, including divorce on the grounds of domestic violence by her husband. Even more damning was her link to close friend and fellow actor Ahn Jae-hwan, who was found dead in his car of carbon monoxide poisoning in September 2008. It is believed Ahn killed himself due to financial woes. In the wake of his passing, rumors surfaced that Choi had lent him money in the role of a loan shark that he could not afford to pay back. In retrospect, it is likely that the rumors were groundless, but they were obviously devastating to Choi, who ended her own life just a month after.

In the wake of Choi Jin-Sil’s death, South Korea (which already experiences an extremely high suicide rate) suffered unimaginable tragedy. For about a month, suicide rates increased by 70 percent, from an average of about 1,000 to 1,700.

These sympathy suicides eventually tapered off, but not before claiming at least two more victims. On March 29, 2010, Choi Jin-Young, the actress’s brother, hanged himself in the attic of his apartment with electrical cord. He’d been terribly depressed since his sister died, and had made several suicide attempts previously, including an overdose that forced him to have his stomach pumped. In January 2013, Cho Sung-min, Choi’s former husband, also hung himself with a belt.

Show Me The Proof

Time: South Koreans Are Shaken by a Celebrity Suicide
Troubling Increase in Suicide Rate in Prosperous South Korea
Choi Jin-sil’s Former Husband Cho Sung-min Commits Suicide

  • Akatosh

    good, less korean menance in the world

    • rhys

      you’re an idiot. apart from spelling menace wrong…. you couldn’t sound more xenophobic… don’t care what half-baked retort you can throw at me…. just wanted to point out youre a moron.

      • Nomsheep

        Sentences start with capitol letters and ellipses only have three dots. Although I do agree with you

        • rhys

          though im glad I have your approval, I really don’t care what my grammars like, you understood what I said yes? then good grammar isn’t important. and please bear in mind im in the U.K, the birthplace of your language…. and we say “capital” instead of “capitol” and ellipses don’t trouble me. one is a full stop, two is a pause longer than a comma, and three or more is a ‘silence’. those are my rules, and they work for me. besides, all your comment is saying is; “im intelligent too!!!” im done with this site, pedants everywhere.

          • rhys

            and the U.K jibe is meant to say words can have the same meaning, but be spelt differently.

          • Nomsheep

            Yeah, I got that.

          • rhys

            if you did, you wouldn’t say “fuck, I spelt capital wrong”

          • Nomsheep

            I try to avoid using the American spellings being as I’m not American.

          • He *did* spell “capital” wrong. Capitol and capital are indeed both legitimate words, but they do not refer to the same thing. “Capital” is the only right way to refer to capital letters in American English. A capitol is a building in which a legislature meets.

          • Nomsheep

            Actually, I was only being pedantic because you called someone an idiot and preceded to correct them. If you’d skipped that part, I wouldn’t have bothered.

          • rhys

            hehe whatever man, you come to me saying ellipses should have three dots. now you reverse and don’t give a fuck about the very reason you left a comment! if you don’t give a shit about spelling it wrong, why did you bother to tell me that there needs to be three dots? (something which isn’t ever going to facilitate a mis-meaning) I called them an idiot for holding such un-informed opinions on another race. not something as small as spelling menace wrong (as I still knew what he meant) you don’t have to answer back to this one mate….. as I can assume youre just going to reinforce how petty it is to bring up spelling errors. ironically, preceded isn’t the right word…. its proceeded. byeeeee!!

          • Nomsheep

            I just provided you with the reason I corrected you, nothing more, nothing less.

          • rhys

            sure

    • Colonel Duke LaCrosse

      You’re aware that North Korea and South Korea are different countries, right?

      • Akatosh

        same thing. One is a commie, the other wont shut up.
        China owns south korea. Goryeo doesnt exist.

        • CaioDosA

          China owns South Korea as much as Taiwan owns Texas.

    • Doone00

      Someone’s an angry fuck.

    • Nomsheep

      Wrong Korea.

      DPRK =/= South Korea

    • Hadeskabir

      You must have been a honor student in the school for retards.

  • inconspicuous detective

    weird. but on a side note, how is divorce due to domestic abuse considered scandalous?

    • Doone00

      Scandalous – involving immoral or shocking things that a person has done or is believed to have done. Even though her husband was the immoral one, it seems that misplaced shame and guilt are very prevalent in South Korea. I’ve heard of this problem in Japan, too.

    • looklook

      I think every divorce case is a scandalous one, no?

      • inconspicuous detective

        nah. some can be seen coming and aren’t all that shocking.

  • Nomsheep

    That’s kinda depressing.

  • Hadeskabir

    People think that Japan has the highest suicide rate, when the truth is that South Korea has the highest suicide rate in the world. That’s due to the social pressure of achieving something with your life.

  • Giang Huỳnh Hoài

    Asian societies are always filled with judgments. You cannot live a life there without people telling you what the “right” way of life should be. It is conservative beliefs and traditions that have lasted thousands of years without question or challenge that force people to pass days under the constant judging eyes of nearly everybody around them, from family, friends, colleagues to strangers on the street. In this story the actress was famous, so the volume of pressure on her is thousandfold that of normal people. Then she is a female, and Asian tends to blame women in case of separation, and a divorce is just a big stressful event even when you don’t have million people knowing about it. Korea is just an extreme example of how overrated “honour” and “reputation” are in this part of the world.