Suicides, mental illness increase in crisis-hit S Korea

SEOUL - A recent rash of suicides in South Korea is being blamed on the grim economic climate, a situation echoing the impact of the 1997 Asian financial crisis on the country, news reports said this week.

By (AFP)

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Published: Tue 28 Oct 2008, 11:50 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:26 PM

Medical experts say mental illness has also been on the increase here amid the recent stock market meltdown.

Yonhap news agency said a 47-year-old man in the southwestern city of Gwangju committed suicide last Sunday after suffering heavy losses in his highly-leveraged investment in stocks.

He was found hanging in the bathroom of his apartment on Friday, said Yonhap, citing a local police report.

The man put a total of 370 million won (255,000 dollars) in stocks two years earlier after taking out a mortgage on his house and using his life insurance as collateral, Yonhap said.

But he lost two-thirds of the investment in this year's stock market plunge.

"My husband kept saying he felt guilty before the family and he wanted to die," his wife was quoted as telling police.

On the same day, a couple in their 60s were prevented from committing suicide by police, the Korea Times said. They borrowed 100 million won from a security company last October, invested it all in stocks and lost most of it.

Acting on a tip from their relatives, police found the man writing a suicide note in his car, parked on a deserted road, with a wire around his neck.

His wife was rescued after she swallowed sleeping pills at home.

On October 9, a 32-year-old employee from a security firm was found hanging at an inn in Seoul, also in an apparent suicide linked to the plummeting stock market, the Korea Times said.

"About 20 percent of my patients complain of growing agony over the market crash. They've got an extra reason to get depressed," Ha Jee-Hyun, a psychiatrist at Konkuk University Hospital told AFP.

"Those who suffer from depression tend to blame themselves for everything that went wrong. They torture themselves over the market crash, even though the crisis is a global one," he said.

The World Health Organization warned last week that the global economic crisis is likely to cause an increase in suicides and mental illness as people struggle to cope with losing their homes or livelihoods.

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