Shanghai Stuff

Just wondering if there is another side to this article to help me to better understand the culture in Asia. This was headlined on CNN today, and the research numbers posted.


"More than nuclear bomb tests, the suicide of former South Korean president Roh Moo-Hyun has stunned the South Korean public. While the news has shocked the nation, perhaps the level of surprise at the method wasn't as great. The suicide of former president Roh has shocked South Korea.

In a country with one of the highest suicide rates among economically advanced countries, traditional concepts of honor and public "face" remain powerful social forces.

According to World Health Organization figures, rates of suicide in South Korea doubled to 21.9 deaths per 100,000 people between 1996 and 2006. The United Nations cites that 90 percent of suicide cases were caused by mental disorders, but socio-cultural and economic pressures play a large part.

While each case of suicide has a number of complex personal issues, the connection between suicide and honor has a historical basis in many Asian countries.

"There are cultural histories in Asian societies of honorable suicide, such as hara-kiri in Japan, where the person assumes total responsibility," said Dr. Erminia Colucci, research fellow at the University of Melbourne's School of Population Health.

"In many western countries, a suicide in someone of Roh's position might be more about looking for understanding. In collectivist societies, like Japan and Korea, where a person's identity is more tied closely to other groups, suicides can be seen as the ultimate way to rebuild or reclean your image, if it changes."

"I think there is something paradoxical in it. On one hand, some see it as a way of maintaining status and restoring honor to you and the people you represent, but the pressure from that group could contribute to you considering suicide."

Roh was under investigation for corruption and some believe the pressures he felt just became too great.

In South Korea, Roh is the latest and highest profile of recent suicides of public figures. In late 2008, two South Korean actors took their lives. Police cited malicious online rumors as a possible cause for the suicide of Cho Jin-sil in October 2008. The blogs and chat rooms had speculated that she had been pressuring fellow actor Ahn Jae-hwan to repay a debt before he took his own life in September 2008. Video: How South Korean continue mourning »

High-profile suicides can make for lurid headlines, which Dr Paul Yip, director of the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong, believes are far from helpful in combating suicide rates.

"Common in Asia is to sensationalize suicides, especially among celebrities. Often the local or national media publish lots of details of how it was done. The media (in Hong Kong) has got better in their responsible reporting," he said.

"Whenever famous people kill themselves there is an effect on those people who are most vulnerable from a similar age group -- we see this in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan and China, " said Yip."

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