Penalize people for attempting suicide

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Penalize people for attempting suicide

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Around 3:30 pm on Feb. 4, a 25-year-old woman jumped onto the train tracks at Gunam Station on the Busan Metropolitan Subway’s No. 2 line. Fortunately, her life was spared, although two of her fingers were cut off.

Due to the incident, the subway on the entire No. 2 line was delayed by 11 to 13 minutes. The straphangers affected by the delay demanded a refund for their subway fare, and the Busan Transportation Corporation (BTC), which manages the subway system, refunded a total of 1,245,000 won ($1,154) to 891 passengers.

On Feb. 5, the BTC filed a police report against the woman, charging her with disrupting business.

This year, two people have killed themselves by jumping onto the BMS train track. Last year, 10 people jumped, and eight died. In 2011, there were 11 cases with five deaths.

When a person is hit by the train and dies, all trains are stopped for 20 to 30 minutes to collect the body. An average of 3 million won is refunded per incident, a total of about 30 million won every year. A more serious issue is the psychological stress and shock inflicted on the train conductors and station staff.

While those involved in the incident receive paid holidays, it is very hard to shake off the horrible experience. Some suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Other passengers who witnessed the incident at the station are also psychologically affected.

In order to prevent suicides, the BTC is considering a making the person who jumped in front of the train or the surviving family pay compensation.

Park Jeong-hyeon, the customer service director at the BTC, says that many of the jumpers are financially struggling and the actual effect of the compensation claim is questionable. However, it is more to discourage and prevent such incidents. While it sounds merciless, I personally support the plan.

In Japan, there are many cases of compensation claims against those who attempt suicide at train tracks. Some are charged tens of millions of won. As a result, the number of incidents has decreased.

Since screen doors were installed at all subway stations in Seoul, suicide attempts by jumping became very rare. However, incidents continue in Busan subways, where screen doors are not installed at every station, or along the Korail section. It takes about 5 billion won to install screen doors at a station underground, and about 2 billion won for an above ground station.

So it is a matter of budget. The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs requested 10 billion won to install more screen doors, but the National Assembly’s budget committee declined the request.

Nevertheless, the screen doors do not offer a fundamental solution. We need to eliminate the elements in our society that make people end their own lives one by one. We need to build solid screen doors in our hearts to keep us safe.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun
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