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Joint crackdown on online suicide communities proves useful
  • By Marian Chu
  • Published 2017.08.24 16:05
  • Updated 2017.08.24 16:05
  • comments 0

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said Thursday it has ferreted out 12,108 online postings that incite suicide and deleted about half of them, with the assistance of the general public.

The Korea Suicide Prevention Center under the ministry and the Korean National Police Agency jointly conducted the clampdown, asking citizens to report dangerous online postings on suicide from July 12-25, it said.

For example, Han Seung-bae, a 52-year-old high school teacher, has actively searched for and reported damaging information for adolescents found online.

“I see teenagers posting things like ‘I want to die,’ and ‘please tell me how to get ahold of sleeping pills,’ and it makes me incredibly disheartened and sad as a teacher,” Han said. “I’m doing this because I believe I can save a life with the click of a mouse.”

Min Sang-eun, 24, is a nursing school student who has also actively reported dangerous posts after she was affected by suicide.

“(I was) 16 years old. I still cannot forget the day the police called me about my father’s death. My dad was an outgoing and fun who always found hope in dark times,” Min said. “In 2009, he became paralyzed from the waist down after an accident. I thought he would be okay. But when I heard that he committed suicide in a motel in (Seoul), I cannot explain the horrible feeling I got then. I still remember it vividly today.”

The ministry will confer awards to the two individuals, it said.

Citizens have reported 6,245 online posts that promoted committing suicide -- 2,413 posts that recruited members for mass deaths, 1,667 posts that gave instructions on killing oneself, and 1,573 posts that sold tools such as poison, and 210 posts that showed pictures or videos of suicides.

Of them, the sale of poison and other death-inducing means showed the biggest increase of 125 percent, followed by mass suicide recruitment with the growth of 83 percent from last year, the ministry said.

Most of the postings were found on social networking sites (32.4 percent), followed by online communities (32.3 percent), and portal sites (22.4 percent).

The ministry’s investigation also uncovered that 62 percent of surveyed citizens had answered that some suicide-related content on SNS made light of death, but only about 50 percent believed suicide-related content on SNS should be regulated.

“It is unfortunate that we have no method to actively respond to dangerous information on mass suicides that circulate on SNS,” said Professor Yoo Hyun-jae of Sogang University, a leading researcher on the development of media guidelines for suicide prevention. “It is critical the Ministry of Health and Welfare establish closer cooperation with the police and increase voluntary participation of SNS platforms such as Twitter.”


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