Lack of Reverence for Life

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Lack of Reverence for Life

In the aftermath of the suicides of two persons in their 20s who met through an Internet "suicide site," the revelation that "murders on commission" have become popular among the users of these sites has sent a shockwave through Korean society.

Murders on commission arranged through suicide Web sites have occasionally taken place in Japan and other countries, but this is the first time the phenomenon has emerged as a social issue in Korea and it already seems to be spreading. It is obvious that urgent measures need to be taken.

The police believe that there are more than 30 domestic suicide sites, but experts estimate that the actual number could be much higher. All these sites have put forward suicide prevention as their goal, but a considerable number of them contain messages that encourage suicide, express a longing for death or give guidance to members who are interested in aided suicide or murders on commission.

As many as 50,000 Internet users visited the suicide site at the center of this case in just one month. The popularity of such sites is evidently increasing at a dizzying rate.

Suicide is an anti-social act that should not be rationalized or condoned for any reason. The same is true of assisting suicide or glorifying it in any way. The law stipulates that a person who kills on agreement or abets a suicide can receive a jail sentence of up to 10 years.

We are truly astounded, therefore, by the justification given by a young man arrested on suspicion of carrying out a killing on commission.

At 19, he is still a minor, but he explained nonchalantly that he killed his victim, "because he asked me to and I thought it was a way to help him." He added that more than 10 persons had asked him to help them die by phone or via e-mail. His face remained blank and remorseless as he stated that he had planned to kill other people as well.

We cannot simply blame modern social trends that make light of life, or say that this kind of thing is the result of a collapse in our society''s morals. It is as though this incident has given us a glimpse of the dehumanized lives of some members of the N-generation, who enjoy themselves in isolation, deeply immersed in cyberspace, away from social interaction as we know it.

Cyberspace is a twilight world between reality and fantasy, where collective hypnosis is common.

This world may also be encouraging frustrated young people to seek death. When a personal desire for death gains sympathy in this environment of cyberspace, the suicidal impulse can often be amplified to a drastic degree.

The prosecution and the police have already begun an investigation of all suicide sites, but this problem cannot be solved through regulation or the punishment of individuals as criminals. Forcibly closing the suicide sites will not solve the problem either.

It is more important that adults understand their social responsibilities and set a good example to help the youngsters of the N-generation develop healthy personalities.

It is time that we all listen to the analysis of experts who assert that this horrible phenomenon stems from the fact that teenagers have not developed a proper reverence for life. This lack of respect for life is the result of various modern social ills: a rapidly rising divorce rate, rampant domestic violence and overemphasis on the importance of money.

by Shin Hi-taek

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