Suicide season is upon us, as it is at this time every year. Korean high schoolers are busy taking their college-entrance exams; not long after, they'll get their exam results, and some of these youngsters will climb to their apartment building's roof and fling themselves off because they can't bear the shame of having scored lower than expected.
I only just noticed that suicide season roughly corresponds with the arrival of Pepero Day, a nonsense "holiday" in honor of the Pepero snack. (November 11, written as "11/11," looks like four Pepero sticks in a row.) Far be it from me to link Pepero with teen suicide, but even if there's no causation involved, there remains a queasy sort of correlation, a dark overlapping of the festive and the funereal.
It is, of course, in poor taste to make light of something as tragic as the suicide of a child, but the statistical bump in suicides is undeniable, and South Korea routinely has one of the highest rates, if not the highest rate, of suicide among OECD nations. At what point do you not step back and view the situation with a measure of mordant cynicism, Louis CK-style?
Ah, well. Try to ignore any wet, meaty, thudding noises.
ADDENDUM: A cross-cultural consideration of teen suicide provides us with an opportunity to examine cultural differences. Why do teens kill themselves? Americans think Korean teens are nuts for killing themselves because of a mere test. Koreans think American teens are nuts for killing themselves because of shallow, pitiful reasons like "no one understands me" or "My parents suck" or "I have no friends."* On both sides of the Pacific, there's a temptation to look at the other culture and grouse, "Just tough it out!"**
One of the more interesting theories about the root cause of suicide comes from Ernest Becker, author of the Pulitzer-winning The Denial of Death. Becker argues that we become suicidal when we cease to be the hero in our own internal heroic narrative.
*Obviously, the reasons are often deeper than this. See more here.
**Yes, yes—I'm fully aware that clinical depression complicates this issue. And to be clear, I'm not saying that "Just tough it out!" is my own knee-jerk reaction to suicidal feelings.