[Outlook]Choose to live

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[Outlook]Choose to live

Well-known TV entertainer Ahn Jae-hwan committed suicide. He was known as a smart entertainer, having attended the elite Daewon Foreign Language High School and the College of Fine Arts at Seoul National University, the nation’s most prestigious university. He was a gentleman with a pleasant demeanor and he married a comic of the same age last year. Others had every reason to be envious.

After his death, rumors swirled that he had enormous debt and that his business had gone bust. He was also a devout Christian.

Suicide must have been the toughest option.

We can only imagine how he must have felt, but it is hard to accept that he made the right decision. If he had the willpower to commit suicide he must have had strength to overcome hardship as well.

We wish that we had been able to see him say, with the usual smile on his face, “It was so hard back then I almost wanted to end it all.”

Many people ponder suicide at some point in their lives. Some go beyond mere contemplation and cut their wrists or try to hang themselves.

People who experience failed suicides admit later that they thought death was the only way to escape, but in retrospect and given a second chance, they think differently.

Alarmingly, an increasing number of people in Korea are killing themselves. According to data released by the Korea National Statistical Office in 2007, suicide was the fourth biggest reason for death here. Last year alone, more than 13,000 people killed themselves, four times higher than a decade ago. More people die at their own hand than in car accidents.

Korea is the top-ranked country for suicide within the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

There’s a lot of theorizing and speculation as to why so many Koreans are killing themselves. There is more divorce, more one-parent families, people feel lonely and more stressed out, and there are too many Web sites that encourage suicide.

In addition, there is a perceived lack of professional consultants qualified to talk to suicidal people and not enough infrastructure within society to reach out to those who feel alienated.

It’s important to note that committing suicide doesn’t mean you are brave. Cowards seek to escape problems and danger. You could say that the easiest way to forget or escape pain is suicide.

The origin of the word suicide is the combination of the Latin words “sui,” meaning oneself, and “caedo,” meaning to kill. Committing suicide doesn’t mean that one simply disappears; it means that one kills oneself. It is murder in a broad sense. What’s the difference between killing a person and ruining his family and killing oneself and ruining one’s own family?

Suicide is an irresponsible act. One may forget pain by committing suicide but the people around the person are compelled to live in endless pain for the rest of their lives.

In the book “Become a Better You” authored by Pastor Joel Osteen, person who constantly whines goes to a minister.

“Pastor, my life is a total disaster. I have nothing to be happy about.”

“I see. Let’s do a little experiment. Write down things to be happy about on the left side of the paper, things that trouble you on the right.”

“I have nothing to write on the left side.”

“I’m sorry to hear your wife has passed away.”

“What are you talking about? My wife is alive and healthy.”

“Is she? Then, you can write ‘a healthy, living wife.’ But I’m sorry that your house has been burned down.”

“What? My house is intact. It is a beautiful house.”

“Oh, I see. Then, you can write ‘a beautiful house,’ too. But I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been fired at work.”

“Where did you hear that? I have a decent job.”

“There you go. You can add ‘a decent job.’”

If we count our blessings this way, we would have to stay up all night. Some may be angry, saying this kind of thinking doesn’t help when people are in deep trouble. However, life looks different according to how we accept situations. Of course, it is not easy to be strong in the face of adversity and it is easy to forget to appreciate what we have.

The Paralympic Games are taking place in Beijing. Athletes with severe mobility and movement restrictions are competing against one another. Each of these athletes at some point in their lives probably felt some level of frustration.

Whether they were born with a disability or they had their disability befall them later in life, they have had to overcome hardship and pain. Their achievements are as admirable and as moving as any gold medal winner in the Olympics last month.

There is a Korean saying: “Even if you are in deep trouble, it is still better to be in this world.” No matter how hard it may be, life is still worth living. There is a similar saying in English: “It is better to be a live coward than a dead hero.”

Life is precious. If we don’t love ourselves, no one does. We should keep on going, at no matter what.


*The writer is the editor of the special reporting team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Sohn Jang-hwan
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