REPORTING FROM SEOUL — The video footage is chilling.
An apartment surveillance camera shows a uniform-clad 17-year-old old high school girl only moments before she committed suicide in the city of Daejeon this month. The tape shows the girl examining her image in the elevator mirror before pushing the button for the 14th floor, where she jumped to her death.
Authorities say the girl, an only daughter, had suffered bullying at school and her death has raised a cry for new laws against the cruel practice.
South Korea has one of the world's highest rates of teen suicide. Last year, 146 students ages 6 to 18 took their own lives. Nearly 71% of deaths among teenagers were attributed to suicide.
“Our daughter committed suicide because she was an outcast and did not get any help even from her teacher,” the girl’s family said in an Internet posting, calling for students and the teacher to be punished severely.
The victim’s 24-year-old cousin also filed a posting under the title, “Do you know anything about the suicide of a high school girl in Daejeon?”
“She suffered from bullying and others considered her an outcast since September. She asked for help, but the teacher” was indifferent, the posting said.
The surveillance camera tape taken before the girl’s death has been made public on his blog. It shows the girl, her hair long and straight, wearing a backpack, leave the elevator on the second floor, where she lives with her family.
Moments later, the footage shows her re-entering the elevator and after staring at herself in the mirror, she presses the button for the 14th floor.
The South Korean press reported Friday that authorities at the school have denied that the teacher ignored the girl’s pleas.
They said the teacher advised the student to talk with her classmates. “The best answer is to talk and solve it with them. Then, they made an appointment to meet the teacher the next day since the teacher in charge said she felt ill,” said a school official.
They added that they have begun an investigation into the incident.
In this high-pressure East Asian nation, residents are taking their lives at a rate that is three times higher than two decades ago. The rise has given South Korea the highest suicide rate among the 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The nation's rate of self-inflicted deaths is sizably higher than those of other nations in the organization, according to 2009 statistics, the most recent available. In South Korea, 15,413 took their lives that year, or 28.4 for every 100,000 residents. That was higher than Japan's 19.4 and twice the average rate of other OECD nations.
To make matters worse, experts here estimate that the suicides represent only 10% of the attempted suicides.
-- Jung-yoon Choi