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Suicide for the sake of convenience

It should be every parent’s right to die before their children, yet too often they are denied this.

In the case of homicides, parents eventually come to terms with the tragedy after realizing the death was caused by the hands of another, who hopefully will be punished through the criminal justice system.

But when investigators conclude suicide, parents struggle to cope with the loss. They constantly blame themselves for failing their child; “Why didn’t he come to me?” This unanswerable question plagues the minds of parents, usually for the rest of their lives; lives that are often shortened by the enormity of the loss.

A 2019 WHO Global Suicide report stated 703,000 people had taken their own lives, more than those deaths attributed to HIV/Aids, Malaria, Homicide or war. Korea’s 2019 suicides accounted for 26.9 deaths per 100,000 people, 38 per day, the fifth leading cause of death; a rise of 0.9% on 2018. Compare that to the UK (10.8/100,000) or the US (13.93/100,000).

Suicide is apparently the leading cause of death amongst Korean teenagers, often by jumping from buildings. Over the years I have read of many such Korean teen suicides, almost instantly attributed to the stress of the education system and the demands of pushy parents for higher grades. Really? This has always struck me as no more than a simple explanation. It’s simple to understand, and our brains like “simple”, so such a conclusion has been widely accepted, but never really authenticated. A teenager found dead at the foot of a building; school stress; suicide; case closed!

According to the World Population Review, Korea is already leading the world in suicides this year. Two of those suicides occurred in the city of Daegu in July. Two young ladies (18 & 19), who had recently connected on social media, met up and decided to commit suicide. They were found on a construction site at the foot of a building.

The police publicly announced that there were no suspicious circumstances and thus it was a double suicide. This is despite the fact that one of the deceased had bruises over her body, which was partially naked when found. Investigators concluded that the clothes came off during the fall, but did not explain how they determined this. Was there enough time in the air for the clothes to come off?

In order to arrive at such a conclusion, investigators would need to use a dummy, of about the same height and weight as the victim, dressed in the victim’s clothes, and drop the said doll from the alleged jump site, perhaps 30 times, in the same wind conditions, to determine if, and how many times, the clothes came off.

Furthermore, only one of the victims had bruising to her body, so how did the investigators determine it was a double suicide and not a murder suicide? How have they eliminated the possibility of a third or fourth person being present? Was the building from which they jumped part of the construction site? Was the jump site floor dirty and thus examined for shoe prints? What patterns of movement did they form? Was there a struggle? Did they spray the floor for blood traces? Did they “jump” from the roof, or a window? Was the roof railing or window fingerprinted?

I am concerned that the double suicide theory is not a theory at all, merely a hypothesis, or put more simply, an assumption. In order to arrive at a theory, investigators must fail to disprove the hypothesis, and if they have not done this, they cannot prove suicide.

Studies I conducted in this region over 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 saw a rapid rise in Missing Women aged between 18 and 30. In neighboring Kyeongsan it was noted that all of the women, one of whom was last seen in Daegu, disappeared on a Tuesday. These two victims were found at 5am on a Thursday. Has a connection been ruled out?

Suicide, just like homicide, has to be proved. In 2019 there were 847 reported homicides in Korea, just over 70 per month, whilst in the increasingly violent Britain there were 749.

Could the Korean homicide figure actually be higher and the suicide figure lower? Is it less politically damaging to have suicides and not homicides? Maintain the “safe country” image! Who knows? But what is true is that parents deserve closure, so just because investigators will not or cannot prove homicide, they cannot simply conclude suicide for the sake of convenience.

Anthony Hegarty MSc

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