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2008/09/09 18:07 KST
(LEAD) About 60 pct of Korean teens think of suicide: poll

   SEOUL, Sept. 9 (Yonhap) -- Nearly six in every 10 South Korean teenagers have thought about taking their own lives at least once, a poll showed Tuesday, pointing to the seriousness of the teen suicide issue.

   The survey of 4,700 middle and high school students, taken by the state-run Korea Youth Counseling Institute, showed 58.8 percent of the respondents had thought of suicide. Of the total, 11.1 percent attempted suicide.

   According to the findings, teenagers felt suicide urges when they experienced conflicts with parents and other family members, felt deprived of hope, had trouble with friends, or if people close to them took their own lives.

   Roughly 33 percent of the students who considered suicide talked about their feelings with friends, but the vast majority told no one.

   Girls and young people who drank alcohol were more likely to feel the urge to commit suicide, compared with non-drinkers and boys, according to the poll.

   The survey's results mirror broader social developments related to suicide, which has become the fourth leading cause of death in the country among all age groups.

   The National Statistical Office (NSO) said earlier in the day that there were 12,174 suicides representing 5 percent of all deaths in 2007, a startling 14 percent gain from a year earlier.

   The NSO said that an annual average 23.6 Koreans committed suicide out of 100,000 people in the last five years, which is one of the highest levels in the world.

   Related to the rise in suicide-related deaths, the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs said it aims to implement an action plan to convince people not to take their own lives.

   "The goal is to reduce the country's suicides by 10 percent in the next five years," said a ministry official.

   He added that while the number of suicides may peak this year, the government will do all it can to bring it down starting in 2009.