South Korea suicide rates prompt web scrutiny

South Korean actor and singer Park Yong-ha pictured in Seoul in 2009 Singer and actor Park Yong-ha committed suicide in June 2010 at the age of 33

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South Korea has appointed a team of people to scan the internet for suicide-related material as part of a move to cut suicide rates.

The 100-strong group of watchdogs is made up of a cross-section of society, including students, housewives and mental health specialists.

South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, with 40 people taking their own lives each day.

The government says a rise in harmful web material is a contributing factor.

The watchdogs will monitor blogs and social media sites for any material that helps or encourages people to plan their own deaths.

It is thought young people often trawl the internet for companions with whom to make pacts.

A Seoul city government spokesman told the South Korean news agency Yonhap that suicide "is no longer an individual problem but rather a social issue that we must all take part in to resolve".

Pressure

There are five times as many suicides in South Korea as there were a generation ago, according to the government.

Many blame the rise on the country's high-pressure education system, as many of those who commit suicide are students, says the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Seoul.

Others believe the rise is a result of the country's rapid economic growth, which has led to some of the longest working hours in the developed world, she says.

Over the last year, various schemes have been introduced to try to reduce the figures.

Phones linked to emergency helplines have been installed on Seoul's major bridges, and a team of rescue workers patrol the Han River.

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