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Three men found dead in apparent suicide pact

Three men were found dead in an apartment in what police speculate may have been a group suicide in Chungju, North Chungcheong Province, on Monday.

The bodies of the three were found in a villa. The men have been identified only by their family names, ages and places of residence: 26-year-old Park of Chungju, 27-year-old Kwon from Busan and 21-year-old Kim from Daejeon.

Coal ash was found on top of a stove ― carbon monoxide poisoning from burning coal indoors is a common form of suicide here.

Firefighters responded to the scene after receiving a distress call from Park’s girlfriend.

“My boyfriend had posted ‘I am going to commit suicide” online, and when I went to his house to check on him the door was locked, so I called 119,” said Park’s girlfriend, whose name was also undisclosed to the media.

The local police suspect the men met through an Internet portal site pertaining to suicide, due to their differences in age and places of residence. Despite the government’s attempt to curb the amount of online suicide-related traffic, Internet users continue to find loopholes in the screening.

Next to the men were ID cards and suicide notes, which stated that they found their lives difficult.

There are no official figures for the proportion of suicides that have an online dimension, but a study of 100 group suicides covered in the Korean media from 1998-2006 found an Internet link in 18 percent of cases.

The nation’s suicide rate rose to its highest ever level in 2009 at 29.9 suicides per 100,000 people, according to the National Police Agency. Figures from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which go by family surveys rather than police reports, put the rate even higher, at 31 per 100,000 people. Going by the police figures, 2009 saw an increase of 18.8 percent on 2008 and was the third straight year to record a rise.

In 2009, 849 search engine results, postings, images and clips considered to encourage suicide were blocked or deleted ― though there is likely to be an overlap between search engine results and other content listed.

As of September, that number had skyrocketed to 6,948 items, including one website and four blogs.

By Robert Lee (rjmlee@ucdavis.edu)
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