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Suicide leading cause of youth deaths in S. Korea

May 3, 2011 - 19:21 By 천성우
Suicide remains the No. 1 cause of death among young people in South Korea in 2009, a report showed Tuesday, indicating they are under heavy stress from a competitive education environment and toughened job market conditions.

According to the report by Statistics Korea, 15.3 out of every 100,000 people aged between 15 and 24 committed suicide in 2009, the highest ratio among all causes of death reported for the age group. It was higher than 13.5 percent the previous year, when suicide was also the No. 1 cause of death.

The 2009 suicide figure far exceeded deaths caused by traffic accidents, cancer and heart disease, whose corresponding figures stood at 8.4 percent, 3.8 percent and 1 percent, respectively, the report showed.

In a survey conducted last year, 8.8 percent of the age group said they had thought about taking their own lives.

A majority of those surveyed cited heated competition in school, economic difficulties and anxieties about their future after graduation as major reasons why they were tempted to commit suicide, the agency said.

The data comes as a string of suicides were reported recently at a local prestigious school, drawing fresh concerns over the heavy stress and anxieties weighing on many of the nation’s younger generations these days.

Since January, four students have taken their own lives at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), South Korea’s top technology college. The deaths are being blamed on the competitive education environment in the school.

“The suicide data proved with numbers that younger people here are under heavy stress stemming from heated a competition-driven environment at schools,” an agency official said.

Meanwhile, the ratio of younger people in the nation’s total population has dropped significantly over the past decades mainly due to the protracted low birthrate.

The number of younger people aged 9-24 stood at 10.14 million this year, making up 20.7 percent of the total population of about 49 million.

The ratio is far lower than 35.1 percent in 1970 and 24.5 percent in 2000. It was also lower than 21.1 percent reported last year, according to the report.

Despite the declining ratio of younger people, children born to international couples have gone up over the past few years.

The report showed that the number of students born to such multicultural families came to 30,040 at the end of last year, marking a five-fold rise from 6,121 reported in 2005.

The increase is due to a spike in international marriages over the past few years. In 2005, marriages between Koreans and foreigners came to 11,605, but it surged to 34,235 last year, the agency said. 

(Yonhap News)