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.

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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