Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Killing themselves for success

The LA Times ran a story a couple days ago about Korean suicide. Apparently there have been a few family suicide attempts in Southern California over the past couple years. It points out a larger problem: the Korean suicide rate is double the US rate.

The LA Times piece put it well:
In other words, even though they've constructed a hyper-modern society, South Koreans continue to live by rather traditional rules based on family status and shame rather than individual happiness. Chang said that as long as people's economic prospects were improving, they were willing to ignore the unfairness of the system and the rigidly hierarchical nature of South Korean society. But now the competition is too much, and the prospect of being economically static is causing psychological uneasiness. But instead of fighting to change a system that has them working harder and harder for less and less, South Koreans are having fewer children and killing themselves trying to keep up with the Kims.
Most people not working for the government or large corporations don't have pensions. Since its traditional in Korean society for the children to provide for their parents in old age, the parents want their kids to have the best education and the best job. Parents spend hundreds of dollars a month to provide special education to students--usually in English. Their upward mobility is completely reliant upon their child's success. If a child does poorly on an important exam, it may mean "disaster" for their plans.

There aren't any easy solutions to this problem. Except to say that when your happiness and self-worth is based upon money and status, its based on something that is not guaranteed and can go away quickly.


  1. Is there a lower suicide rate amongst the Christians or does it pretty much stay the same?

  2. The article doesn't say. The stats were gathered for an economic group so it focused on occupation and economic status.


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