South Korea suicide toll doubles over a decade

South Korean actor and singer Park Yong-ha pictured in Seoul in 2009 In recent years suicides of young stars like singer and actor Park Yong-ha have shocked South Korea

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Suicides in South Korea have more than doubled in 10 years, according to new figures from the government.

South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world and pressure has been growing for the government to do more to stop the problem spiralling.

The new figures show that in 2009 more than 40 people killed themselves each day in South Korea.

This is more than twice the number who did so a decade earlier and five times as many as in 1989.

The question is why more South Koreans are killing themselves?

The economy has been growing by an average of 7% since the Asian crisis a decade ago and despite a rapid rise in household debts, the country has not seen the mass lay-offs and economic stagnation which were blamed for suicide rates in neighbouring Japan.

Some analysts here say there has been a move towards suicides among younger age groups, with some young people using internet sites to form suicide groups.

Earlier this year the South Korean parliament passed a new law giving the government more responsibility for preventing suicides.

Since then several new initiatives have been launched including the installation of emergency phones on bridges and, according to local media, plans for a nationwide series of suicide prevention centres.

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