Seoul politician blames rise in male suicides on decline in ‘male supremacy’


A statue of a man comforting a person, placed by the government to discourage potential suicides, at the Mapo Bridge over the Han River in Seoul, pictured on January 11, 2013. Credit – Pedro Ugarte—AFP/Getty Images

SSouth Korea has a distressing suicide problem. It also has an increasingly sharp division over gender roles in the country. A politician in the capital has been criticised for linking the two issues.

Local media reported on sunday on a Press release of June 28 by Seoul City Councilor Kim Ki-duck, with data on suicide attempts on 21 bridges over the Han River from 2018 to 2023. Of the 4,069 attempts, 2,487 were by men, 1,079 by women and 503 by people of unknown gender. The report noted that in 2018, 430 people attempted suicide on the bridges, including 288 men (67%), while the total number of attempts rose to 1,035 in 2023, of which 798 (77%) were by men.

In the press release, Kim cited one reason for the trend: “Unlike in the past, when patriarchy and male supremacy ideology prevailed, Korea has recently begun to transform into a female-centered society, with women outnumbering men by about 5 percent by 2023. … As the number of women increases, several factors are at play, including changes in the marriage market due to a shortage of male labor and an increase in men having difficulty finding marriage partners, as well as changes in the roles of men and women due to women’s participation in society.”

The solution, Kim concluded in the press release, was that “in order to counter the spread of the female-dominated phenomenon, it is necessary to raise awareness of gender equality so that men and women can enjoy equal rights and opportunities.”

Kim told the local newspaper Handkerchief“I wrote this based on my own personal beliefs, deducing the cause of the male suicide rate.” The article also cited experts who refuted Kim’s analysis, pointing out that men have long had higher suicide rates than women in Korea and around the world, regardless of gender equality status. Latest World Health Organization facts shows that the global age-standardized suicide rate is more than twice as high for men (12.6 per 100,000) than for women (5.4 per 100,000).

Blaming feminism and ‘reverse discrimination’ for social problems, including serious demographic declineis not new in South Korea, even though the country is still far from being ‘female dominated’. Overall gender equality in South Korea has actually deteriorated in recent years, especially in the area of political empowerment of womenaccording to the latest report from the World Economic Forum annual gender gap indexin which South Korea ranks 105th out of 146 countries analyzed in 2023, down from 99th place in 2022.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental health crisis or considering suicide, call or text 988. For emergencies, call 911 or seek help from a local hospital or mental health provider. For international resources, click here.

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