The tragedy of family suicide

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The tragedy of family suicide

Until the 1990s, the phrase “family suicide” often appeared on the news. It refers to the tragic death of an entire family due to a business failure, hardship, disability, or disease. But it is unlikely that the entire family actively agreed to make the extreme choice to take own lives.

The “recommended standards for covering suicide 3.0” set by the Korean Journalists Association in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Welfare strictly bans the expression “family suicide.” It states that a joint suicide of the family should be perceived as a criminal act of murder or aiding and abetting a suicide.

The most heinous form of family death is when parents murder their children. The murder is inspired by the wrong idea of treating children as a property of the parents and thinking parents can do whatever they want with their children. Sometimes, the murdering parent leaves a suicide note, “I have to take my children’s life because it is more tragic to leave them alone.” While the murderer may have wanted sympathy and understanding, no desperate cause can justify such an act.

On June 29, 10-year-old Cho Yoo-na was found dead with her parents in the waters off Songgok Port in Wando, South Jeolla. The police confirmed that the father, at age 36, invested more than 100 million won ($77,000) in cryptocurrency, lost tens of thousands of won, and owed 150 million won in credit card debt and loans. It was also found that the father searched “sleeping pills” and “falling off the breakwater” on the internet.

Lately, young people in their 20s and 30s are suffering from failed investments. According to the rehabilitation and bankruptcy status that Democratic Party (DP) lawmaker Jin Seon-mi obtained from the Supreme Court, the number of personal rehabilitation applications by people aged between 20 and 29 is increasing by an average of 800 a year, from 10,307 in 2019 to 11,108 in 2020 and 11,907 in 2021. It is presumed that many of them suffered a loss from investing in stocks or cryptocurrency.

The central and local governments must pay a special heed to the young heads of households, like Cho, to help protect children from unforeseen danger. Psychological therapy, counselling and active segregation, if necessary, must be taken. The misery of hardships leading to murdering own children should never happen again. Yoo-na, the little girl, had no reason to die and deserved to be happier.

The author is the national news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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