The Korea Herald


S. Korea unveils five-year plan for suicide prevention

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : April 14, 2023 - 14:36

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Prime Minister Han Duck-soo speaks at a meeting of the Suicide Prevention Policy Committee at the Government Complex Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap) Prime Minister Han Duck-soo speaks at a meeting of the Suicide Prevention Policy Committee at the Government Complex Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)

The Ministry of Health and Welfare unveiled a five-year plan aimed at decreasing the nation's high suicide rate on Friday.

According to the suicide prevention plan, the government aims to see fewer than 20 suicide deaths out of 100,000 people in 2027. At 26.7 deaths per 100,000, suicide was the fifth leading cause of death here in 2021, far exceeding deaths from traffic accidents.

Korea's suicide mortality rate should drop by 30 percent to 18.2 by 2027, over the course of six years beginning 2021, according to the ministry.

"Korea's suicide rate is the highest among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries," said Prime Minister Han Duck-soo during a meeting of the Suicide Prevention Policy Committee.

"Since protecting the people's lives is the state's most important responsibility, the government will do its best to protect the people's lives through this suicide prevention plan,"

South Korea has the highest suicide rate among 34 surveyed OECD member nations, with around 13,000 people taking their own lives here in 2021. South Korea has held the top position for about 20 years since 2003.

The five-year plan includes pangovernmental efforts to curb suicide.

Suicide prevention programs will be tailored to regional differences. For example, the government will operate the program specialized for young people in new towns with many young people and operate a program specialized for seniors in rural areas where many older people live.

Also, harmful keywords or phrases related to self-harm or suicide will be monitored throughout the day, with a dedicated unit to report to police, carry out rescue operations and call for police help to investigate if needed.

Seoul also aims to increase the suicide hotline "1393" response rate from 60 percent in 2022 to 90 percent by 2027 by hiring more staff. It will offer counseling via social media.

The government will also strengthen follow-up care for people who have attempted suicide. The personal information of those who attempted suicide will be delivered to the Korea Suicide Prevention Center so that they can receive counseling and treatment support. Their medical expenses will be fully funded by the government starting this year.

Mental health examinations conducted during the two-year mandatory national health examination will be more frequented, from the current 10-year cycle to a two-year cycle.