The Granite Tower
FOREIGN REPORT
Planting Hope Over the Shadows
Lee Jae Eun  |  leeje16@korea.ac.kr
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승인 2018.11.04  23:46:30
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Can suicide ever be prevented? The matter of suicide is difficult to deal with, as there are divergent factors that affect suicide and that are vaguely suggested to reduce suicide rates. Despite the rather pessimistic belief that it is almost impossible to adjust, Japan has made noteworthy progress in reducing the rate of suicide. In a relatively short period of time, the Japanese government has been successful in combating the matter of suicide, which Korea should certainly take this into consideration as well. Through comparison and reflection of the applied policies, the issue of suicide is consistently examined behind the scenes. 

Japan has portrayed the realization of suicide prevention policy implementation through the steady actions to reduce suicide. With the firm determination by the Japanese government to curb the number of the people killing themselves, Japan has been systematically operating aggressive prevention policies. Japanese society has brought down the suicide rate to 37.3 percent in 2017, referring back to the number of people committing suicide that once exceeded 30 thousand people declined to approximately 21 thousand people. However, this result was not achieved all of a sudden. With the help of the consistent exertions and policies to handle the sensitive issue, what seemed as an inaccessible problem to solve has become comparatively approachable. 

Reaching Out for Settlement

The Japanese government has been particularly functional in establishing measures for suicide as civil servant groups take charge over 47 metropolitan councils and approximately 1700 self-governing bodies. In detail, there are a number of experts, including doctors, lawyers, civil servants and recruiting specialists, who study the high risks, consultation, and relief of suicide. In 2006, the “Framework Act on Suicide Prevention” was amended, and accordingly the ‘Suicide Countermeasure Headquarters’ was arranged. Upon these acts, as a link between the government and local self-governing bodies, the circulating system entitled Plan Do Check Action (PDCA) was introduced. This system enabled the investigation on a national level into the actual suicide situations within the 1700 local government districts that would be the basis of “Policy Package” to be an implementation plan against suicide.

Based on the policy package, the local governments construct specific regulations and conduct enforcement of policies. The results and changes are then reported back to the central government, the Suicide Countermeasure Headquarters, where further improvements are suggested towards future policy packages. Reflecting on past accomplishments andrecommendations for a renewed plan, advanced policies are conducted to come into effect.

Many More Factors to Consider

The key to the decrease in suicide rates in Japan also applies to the contribution of every member in the society. Not only experts but also civilians are induced to actively participate and take leadership roles to take consultation and awareness of the issue. The Japanese government has been taking the lead in holding conventions towards the countermeasures for suicide, and people from diverse age groups actively participate. Furthermore, the entire society works as a whole to diminish the number of those who kill themselves. It has become a natural consequence in everyday lives as education for suicide prevention is conducted and emphasized since elementary school, and the entire society conceive it as a collective responsibility instead of an individual problem.

Suicide Dealt with in Korea
 
South Korea ranks first in the suicidal rates among OECD countries. Moreover, suicide is the most influential factor that results in youth deaths. One characteristic within the Korean society may be described as cultural trauma. Adolescent suicide, divorce rates, perjury, and abortion rates are all reflected in this cultural aspect. In these typical features, Korea needs to put efforts to grasp the fundamental problems and alternatives through education. However, due to the perception that suicide is a problem of an individual, those who need medical care often resist the urge to visit hospitals or talk with psychiatrists, which is one of the biggest influences that cause Koreans to be vulnerable to suicidal impulses.

While Japan has altered society’s view as a collective responsibility, the perspective in Korea is still to be determined. “With explosive economic advancement, Korean citizens have been constantly exposed to extreme  competition and pressure, which led to certain descriptions such as a lonely, competitive, tired, and exhaustive society.” comments Han Chang-Su, the director of the Korea Suicide Prevention Center. “In this highly stressful environment, it is unfair to blame the individuals for the matter. Members of society should act against the problem together.” 

In order to construct the ideal society, Han points out raising retrievability within Korean society. Diverse plans are put forward, such as increasing humanities forums that examine suicide in a societal perspective and applying it to social policies. In order to reform people’s awareness towards suicide, the familiar media, including newspapers and television, promote public service announcements and deliver a hotline in accord to suicide news. The government also aims to encourage cooperation between organizations to publicize the need to ameliorate the public cognition towards this matter.

Ideal Approaches to Head Towards

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Welfare arranged specific National Action Plans on the prevention of suicide at the beginning of the year. It is aiming to reduce the suicide rates to 17 people by 2022 while it was counted 36 people per day in 2016. Following the plan, the Moon administration announced specific plans which consist of a total of six programs and 54 projects. The government is aiming to develop advanced, evidence-based prevention policies, and death registry data and cases of attempted suicide are all to be mobilized for specific analysis. Based on the in-depth examination, risk elements that indicate suicide are intended to be reduced and possibly carried out as a practical plan to reduce suicide rates in general.

The extraordinary case of Japan’s decrease in suicide rates is not surprising, as there were unseen but constant efforts made behind the scenes. Not only were government and imperative policies put into action, but warm support and participation from citizens contributed hugely to the success. Reversing the doubtful views, it has been proven possible to actually downturn suicide rates and advance the societal awareness towards suicide. This is critical for Korea to take into consideration when enforcing the demands to reduce suicide rates. Towards the aim of cutting down the scale in an impressive measure, diverse factors within the government and society should be given attention.
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