Alarming Series of Suicide in South Korea; Korean Govt Ban Suicide Recruitment Website

June 3, 2011

Two young men and two women were found dead in a car Thursday in an apparent Internet-based group suicide, Korean police said.

Police said the four, including a 25-year-old woman identified only as Park, left suicide notes in their bags in the car parked next to a river in Seongju, 210 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

They apparently inhaled toxic fumes after burning coal briquettes inside the vehicle, which had its windows sealed with plastic tape, police said.

Police investigators examine a car in which four people were found dead in an apparent Internet-based group suicide, in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, on Thursday.

 (Yonhap News)

Park's mother in Seoul told investigators that her daughter was reported missing on May 30 after joining a suicide-related website, Yonhap news agency said.

Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people in Korea, with heavy stress from its highly competitive educational environment and job market taking a lethal toll.

Copycat suicides have increased since an actor killed himself in 2008 by burning coal briquettes in his car.

In 2009 police arrested three website operators in a probe into a series of Internet-based group suicides that left at least 20 people dead.

Portals have since banned websites promoting suicide, and police have expanded a cyber-monitoring team to track down operators of suicide-related websites and blogs, which are illegal in Korea and punishable by up to 10 years in jail.


Army soldier commits suicide at frontline unit

An Army private shot himself dead with his assault rifle early this week while on duty at a frontline unit, the latest in a recent string of deaths of conscripts, officials said Thursday.

The private, identified only by his surname Choi, was found dead with a bullet in his head in the pre-dawn hours of Monday outside a military post near Hwacheon, 118 kilometers northeast of Seoul, according to the Army. A suicide note was found on the scene.

A senior soldier who was on duty with Choi at the guard post found the body of the private outside the post after hearing sounds of gunfire, military authorities said.

The suicide note indicated Choi had been under severe pressure during his service and endured tougher discipline in his unit.

"My fatigue doesn't go away despite much sleep. I have become more and more forgetful. I realize I am such a fool," the note read.

An official said the Army is investigating to determine the exact cause of Choi's suicide and whether he had been harassed prior to his death.

The military has been under growing criticism for a spate of deaths of conscripts.

Last month, a 23-year-old recruit died of inflammation of the brain and meninges, the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, two days after he showed a sudden high fever following a 20-kilometer endurance march.

Military investigators said inappropriate medical treatment is believed to be partly to blame for the death of the recruit.

All-able bodied South Korean men are required to serve at least two years for the military, which faces North Korea across the heavily fortified border.


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