Suicide of Top Model Reveals Korean Tragedy by Gregory Hilton

Daul Kim, a top South Korean fashion model, was found hanged in her Paris apartment yesterday. Paris police believe 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. She was raised in Seoul and in addition to modeling, she was 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. Roh himself had been sued by the widow of former Daewoo head Nam Sang-Guk for allegedly making defamatory comments that drove her husband to throw himself off a bridge. 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, as did millionaire Samsung heiress Lee Yoon-hyung.
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. Suicide prevention services had to cope with copycat suicides after the deaths of these two young women.
At Lifeline Korea, which provides telephone counseling to help prevent suicides, Na Sun-Young said “Callers 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 also occurred 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. The South Korean media tends to glorify 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.

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