South Korean religious leaders have joined a government-led campaign to reduce one of the world's highest suicide rates, officials said Thursday.
The Korean Council of Religious Leaders, which groups Protestants, Catholics and Buddhists, said it would conduct public education programmes to combat the leading cause of death among young people.
"Suicide is the highest cause of death among those in their twenties and thirties, on whose shoulders the future of this country rests. This is a serious problem indeed," the council said in a statement this week.
"Those who commit suicide think all pain, together with his or her life, will end. But suicide affects at least six other people through psychological shock or a dangerous impulse to follow suit."
The health ministry says 23.9 in every 100,000 South Koreans committed suicide in 2007, the highest rate among members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
This compared with 21 in Hungary, 19.4 in Japan, 16.7 in Finland, 14.2 in France and 14.0 in Switzerland, the ministry said. South Korea's rate has risen from 18.4 deaths for every 100,000 in 1998.
Ha Sang-Hun, director of telephone counselling service Lifeline Korea, said the country's suicide rate had remained high after surging during the 1997-98 East Asian financial crisis.
"A highly competitive atmosphere in society, mounting uncertainties over the future and crumbling traditional social networks amid weak social safety nets are all to blame for the high suicide rate," he told AFP.