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Daul Kim Latest South Korean Suicide


Daul Kim, a top South Korean fashion model, was found hanged in her Paris apartment. Paris police have hypothesized that the 20-year-old Kim committed suicide. If so, it will be one of dozens of suicides committed by South Koreans each day.

Kim was a fashion week regular in Milan, Paris, and New York, and had most recently appeared during Seoul fashion week in October. She was raised in Seoul and Singapore and got her start in Asia before making her fashion week debut in Paris in 2007. In addition to modeling, Kim was also a talented painter and video filmmaker.

South Korea has the distinction of having the highest suicide rate among the 30 nations that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Kim’s apparent suicide joins a list of other well-known South Koreans who ended their lives within the last few years, including former president Roh Moo-hyan, who jumped to his death in May, and Park Yong-oh, the ex-chairman of South Korea’s oldest conglomerate, committed suicide earlier this month. Choi Jin-sil, a popular actress, committed suicide in 2008.

In 2007, actress Jeong Da-Bin, 27, and pop singer Yuni, who both had successful careers, were found hanged. Da-Bin reportedly was depressed over a work shortage; Yuni had just completed her third album. According to China Daily.com, suicide prevention services were worried about copycat suicides after these two young women died.

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At Lifeline Korea, which provides telephone counseling to help prevent suicides, Na Sun-Young told ChinaDaily.com that after Yuni’s death she received many calls from young people who were contemplating suicide. “They were saying they had to die because even someone as beautiful as Yuni could not stand it and committed suicide.” A series of copycat suicides did occur in South Korea after 24-year-old film star Lee Eun-Joo took her life in 2005.

The suicide rate in South Korea more than doubled between 1995 and 2005, from 11.8 per 100,000 people to 26.1 per 100,000. On average, 38 people commit suicide in South Korea each day. While the National Statistics Office blames the high suicide rate on a bad economic climate that followed the 1997 financial crisis, other factors likely come into play as well.

In South Korea, surveys show that many young people believe they have the right to commit suicide. The media also tends to glorify the victims and their deaths. After Chun Se Yong set himself on fire and plunged 15 feet from a building to protest the beating to death of student demonstrators by police back in 1991, five other protestors followed suit.

Another factor may be the cyber attacks targeted at celebrities. Both Yuni and Jeong reportedly had been maliciously attacked on the Internet, a practice that is unfortunately all too common. Why Daul Kim became one of the latest South Korean suicide victims is not yet clear. But she surely will not be the last.

China Daily.com, Feb. 12, 2007
Telegraph.co.uk, Nov. 20, 2009
Time, June 3, 1991