South Korea to criminalise suicide pacts

A banner with a message reading "You are the most valuable person in the world" is attached to a barrier designed to make suicide more difficult on Mapo Bridge, a well-known suicide spot, in Seoul. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea is to make organising a suicide pact a criminal offence, officials said Tuesday (Jan 23), as the government seeks to reduce one of the world's highest rates of self-killing.

The suicide rate in Asia's fourth-largest economy has increased sharply since 2000 to 25.6 a year per 100,000 people, twice the average for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries.

Prominent suicides regularly make headlines - K-pop singer Kim Jong Hyun killed himself last month - but most victims are elderly in a country where social safety nets are weak.

The criminalisation of suicide pacts was among a series of measures approved by the cabinet Tuesday.

TV dramas and web cartoons glorifying suicides will also be discouraged, and suicide prevention education will be required for all soldiers.

Seoul aims to lower the suicide rate to 17 per 100,000 by 2022.

The government said more than 90 per cent of those who killed themselves sent warning signals in advance and suicides could largely be prevented through people paying attention.

Examinations for depression will be included in mandatory annual health checkups for all South Koreans from their 40s to their 70s.

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