South Korean Kids Are Killing Themselves In Greater Numbers. But Why?

South Korea's obsession with education could be takings its toll on youths' mental health.

students in South Korea

South Korea has one of the most thriving economies in Asia with per capita income of almost $30,000, but a healthy economy isn't stopping its youth in committing suicide at an alarmingly high rate.

As per a survey conducted by the Korean government, the suicide ratio in the age group of between 9 and 24 is much higher than what it was a decade ago. In 2013, for instance, there were 7.4 suicides per 100,000 youth, compared to 7.8 in 2014.

Back then, deaths resulting from traffic accidents claimed most teenage lives, (9.6 per 100,000 youth). But in recent times, the rate of traffic-related deaths has gone down to 4.4 per 100,000 while the number of people committing suicide has gone up.

The rising number of suicides among the youth has actually been a problem for South Korea for quite some time. Despite measures by the government, more and more Koreans killed themselves from the early '90s until 1998. The trend subsided a bit in the next two years but the suicide rate resumed its upward trend in the 2000s and hasn't slowed down since.

It raises the question: What's so different in South Korea that their youth are so fed up with life? Some common reasons cited are the pressure to do well academically, intense career competition and the general stress of the daily life.

Mind you, South Korea has a well-known obsession with education, and it's a common sight for Korean students to return home late at night after spending their entire day in schools or hagwons (after school tutoring academies). Korea has built its strong economy by focusing on the education sector, but now the obsession has gotten out of hand. This is evident with the findings of another study, which revealed that almost 60 percent of South Korean students experience school-related stress.

Is education the key to success? Yes, it is. But when it comes at the price of life itself, perhaps it is time to tone things down a bit.

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