From the Korean Herald

Korea’s deepening economic difficulties and lack of social aid has pushed the country’s suicide rate to the highest position among member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development the National Statistical Office said yesterday.

With 26 out of every 100,000 Korean citizens committing suicide last year – more than double the 11.8 recorded in 1995 – a total of 12,000 deaths is the highest of all 30 OECD member states. Korea’s soaring suicide rate tops the United Kingdom and Italy with 6.3 and 5.6 respectively.

Even Japan, which is notorious for its suicide culture, has a lower rate at 20.3 said the NSO. Experts largely blame the widening economic gap between the rich and the poor and inadequate social securities for the suicide hike.

I think there is much more to this than just economics. I would suggest two other factors need to be considered.

1. There is a “suicide culture” in Korea where committing sucide is sometimes seen as a way of taking responsibility for failure. Some high level examples here, here and here

2. There is huge social pressure in Korea to conform to achievement expectations. These expections come from a combination of parents, peers, education and the media.