New Year holiday ends with a rash of suicides

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New Year holiday ends with a rash of suicides

First come the holidays.

Then the suicides.

On Sunday, the last day of the five-day Lunar New Year holiday, an 89-year-old surnamed Yang was found dead, having hanged himself in the underground parking lot of his apartment complex in Yongsan District, central Seoul. Police said Yang had suffered from severe depression after his wife passed away.

Later that day, a 40-year-old man was found dead in his home in Eunpyeong District, northwestern Seoul. He is believed to have died from asphyxiation after lighting a charcoal briquette in a sealed room. Authorities investigating the case said he had financial problems and could not afford to pay his rent and utility bills.

Also on Sunday, a 33-year-old man surnamed Kim was found hanging from a tree branch in a park in Gangseo District, western Seoul.

According to police, he left his home at 9 a.m. on Saturday and did not return, telling his family that he had a job, even though he did not.

When the Korea Suicide Prevention Center analyzed the number of suicides over the past five years, officials calculated that the number of people who killed themselves following big holidays like Lunar New Year and Chuseok stood at 43.4 each year - larger than the average daily suicide rate of 40.4.

Analysts say holidays often highlight people’s problems and aggravate conflicts.

“Big holidays amplify our daily lives,” says Shin Gwang-yeong, a sociology professor at Chung-Ang University. “If the bond between family members is strong, holidays make it even stronger. But if the family has problems, they become even larger, and people who don’t have family feel left out even more than on other days.”

Another reason for suicides after the holidays could be a lack of communication among family members, which is highlighted during the holiday celebrations. Other analysts say many people suffering from economic hardship often choose to die rather than to ask for help, probably due to a lack of trust among family.

“Men, who are mostly responsible for supporting their families, are obsessed with the idea that they should pretend they are well-off even when they have difficulties,” said Park So-yeong, a social welfare professor at Semyung University. “They decide to take their own lives because they assume their family members would not sympathize with them if they confide their difficulties.”

An example would be a 35-year-old who is believed to have drugged his wife and three children with sleeping pills and killed them and himself while heading to his parents on Thursday.

Police said the 35-year-old had 150 million won ($135,000) in debt in his wife’s name.

He “seems to have killed his family and himself because his parents would not have understood the problems he had,” Professor Park said.

BY CHAE YOON-KYUNG [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]



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