Back To Top

Korea’s suicide rate remains top in OECD

South Korea’s suicide rate remained the highest among OECD countries for 10 consecutive years, from 2002 to 2012, according to recent OECD data.

The rate in South Korea in 2012 reached 28.1 for every 100,000 people, while the average rate for all of the OCED nations was 12.1.

However, the number of those who committed suicide in Korea dropped slightly from 2011 to 2012, the data said. The rate in the country had reached its peak in 2011 at 31.7 for every 100,000.

According to Statistics Korea, the nation’s suicide rate has more than tripled since 1992. One in 5 suicides ― 18.8 percent ― in Asia’s fourth-biggest economy were attributed to financial difficulties, while almost 30 percent of the cases were linked to mental illnesses such as depression.

“The poverty rate in Korea increased in the ’90s, especially after the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis,” said Ku In-hoe, a professor at Seoul National University’s department of social welfare.

“From what I remember, the average poverty rate among OCED countries is about 10 percent. And Korea’s rate is about 15 percent. Among many, seniors are particularly vulnerable (to poverty).”

Earlier this year, a number of poverty-related suicides have focused national attention on holes in the country’s social security system.

In February, a mother in her 60s and her two adult daughters committed suicide together by carbon monoxide poisoning, after struggling financially. In March, a 44-year-old man and his two children took their own lives in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, after being unable to make ends meet.

In April, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced that some 1,300 people were taken to emergency rooms for suicide attempts last year.

Those who have tried to take their own lives in the past are 25 times more likely to make another suicide attempt, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, Turkey had the lowest suicide rate ― 1.7 for every 100,000 people ― among OECD countries in 2012.

Aside from the suicide rate, South Korea also had the highest smoking rates among men, according to the data. Meanwhile, it had the lowest rates of obesity.

By Claire Lee (