By Kim Rahn
The dead body of a man who lived alone lay unnoticed for 11 months in a one-room flat in Busan.
According to police, the new owner of the flat found the body of the previous owner, 49-year-old Sohn, Monday morning and reported it to police.
Sohn seemed to have hung himself from a pipe in the kitchen, police said. The new owner, Kim, had mistaken the body for a mannequin twice before realizing that it was a dead body.
``The body was dried up like a mummy. We suspect he died about 11 months ago, considering that his last phone call was made on Oct. 5 and that he was wearing fall clothes,'' a police officer said.
After buying the house through an auction in July, Kim checked the house in July and August before living there but did not notice that there was a body.
It was not until Monday that Kim found out what the ``mannequin'' was: Kim's girlfriend who came to help him clean the house said that it looked like a human body, and Kim touched it, learning that she was right.
``Neighbors did not know Sohn was dead, because the body did not give out a bad smell as it was dried up in the well-ventilated kitchen. He had severed ties with his family and lived alone, so no one tried to contact him over the last 11 months,'' the officer said.
It is not the first time that a person living alone has been found dead long after death amid neighbors' indifference. In June last year, a man in his 60s was found dead and neighbors did not know it until one of them reported a bad smell coming from the house to police. Police suspected he had died roughly a month before. Earlier in February, another man was found dead when his nephew visited him roughly three months after his death.
The number of such cases is increasing amid growing individualism and apathy toward others, especially toward senior citizens living alone. The authorities are preparing preventive measures for such elderly people without families, but experts say the solution is not so easy for young adults living alone.
``Local authorities have programs where public servants regularly visit or call the elderly living alone to check whether they are fine. A county in Jeju once devised a program where the local government paid for yogurt for senior citizens living alone, so that yogurt deliverywomen could check their condition everyday,'' Lee Sung-kee, Inje University's social welfare department professor, said.
He said, however, no country yet has programs against emergencies or the death of every person living alone.
``Unlike the elderly, it is not easy to apply such a care program to those who `choose' to live alone and alienate themselves from society, like Sohn. We cannot force them to be involved in such protective programs unless they want to,'' Lee said.