Please don’t get me wrong, I take suicide very seriously. It is a grave issue, and nearly what I would consider an epidemic in Korea, with one of the highest suicide rates in the world. However, the big brother approach to suicide prevention is misguided.
The Korean government already requires “real name” registration on many of the largest websites. The intent is to stifle rumors (false ones) by holding people accountable for their posts. Korea is one of the few countries in the world where this kind of policy would actually work (in a limited way). The Korean tech industry in insular. Local internet companies rule the roost, with foreign companies in distant, distant 2nd/3rd/etc (witness Naver’s success within Korea). In most other countries, laws like this would be laughed off as citizen flocked to companies outside of Korea. Here, however, this has a real impact.
Does it really work? Obviously not or else they wouldn’t be still talking about it. While it certainly dampens the rumor-mill, it doesn’t mussle it. Now they are going after smaller sites in an attempt to further clamp down. This will fail. There is no hesitancy in my conviction. It will fail.
Like most misguided, heavy-handed approaches to governance, this policy hurts the innocent more than the culprits. It will stop the political dissenters, the whistle-blowers, and those who have been wronged. It will provide fodder for laughable libel laws that prevent people from warning the public against real dangers: corrupt politicians, criminal businesses and business people, and even harmful products (see recent melanin scare).
These public figures are not committing suicide because of online rumors. They are committing suicide because they are sick. They need medical/psychiatric attention, not post-suicide ramblings against name-callers. They need for society to quit looking for others to blame and get people with problems to help. Choi Jin-sil, as the article pointed out, told at least two people that she was going to kill herself. Sometimes signs that people are thinking about suicide are difficult to see, but you’ve got to be kidding me! She could have walked down the street with a sign saying I’m going home to hang myself and not been clearer.
Instead of suppressing everyone’s free speech, let’s start by educating the public on what to look for and how to help people with suicidal thoughts. Instead of millions in oversight for monitoring discussion groups, try spending it on building awareness of mental health and changing public perception of getting mental help?
EDIT – I found this shortly after publishing. At least someone out there is looking at the issue (though not directly related) in a rational light. More rational than me for that matter. Check out the editorial here.