Suicide remained the single largest cause of death among young people in Korea for the third straight year in 2010, a reflection of the stress caused by competitive education and an unfavorable job market, a report showed Wednesday.
According to the report by Statistics Korea, 13 out of every 100,000 people aged between 15 and 24 committed suicide in the cited year, the highest ratio among all causes of death reported for the age group.
The number was lower than the peak of 15.3 in 2009 and 13.5 percent in 2008, but the statistical office said there was a gradual increase in suicides until 2009. South Korea started compiling annual youth data in 2000, although it only has records for people in the 15-24 age group from 2008 onwards.
The 2010 suicide figure far exceeded deaths caused by traffic accidents, cancer and heart disease, whose corresponding figures stood at 8.3 and 1.2 for every 100,000 people, respectively, the report showed.
Of the youths polled, 8.8 percent said they had thought about taking their own lives, with 53.4 percent citing excessive education-related competition as the main cause for their suicidal thoughts.
This was followed by 28.1 percent who were weighed down by economic difficulties and 15.8 percent who worried about their future after graduation.
Youths in the country are pushed by parents and teachers to do well in school because success or failure to enter good universities can often determine the kind of lives they lead.
"The relatively high rate of suicides is testament to the stress young people are under," an official at the agency said.
Reflecting this, 71.7 percent of elementary, middle school and high school students received private tutoring or went to educational academies to augment what they learned at school.
The latest data showed 10.4 percent of South Korean teens were addicted to surfing on the Internet with over 40 percent exposed to adult content material through TV, computers and mobile phones.
Among people in their teens, 97.8 percent used the Internet at least once a day, with nine out of 10 high school students frequenting social network services such as blogs.
The latest report also showed the ratio of younger people in the nation's total population has dropped significantly over recent decades mainly due to the protracted low birthrate.
The number of people aged 9-24 stood at 10.19 million this year, making up 20.4 percent of the total population of little over 50 million.
The ratio is far lower than 35.1 percent in 1970 and 24.5 percent in 2000. It was also lower than 21.2 percent reported for 2010, the report said.
The steady decrease pushed down the percentage of people of school-going age to 9.59 million, or 19.2 percent of the total population in 2012.
Meanwhile, the nationwide findings showed young people becoming taller and heavier due to more protein-rich diets, with larger numbers going abroad to study or sightseeing.
The average height and weight of a middle school senior grew by 1.7 centimeters and 3.8 kilograms as of 2010 compared to 10 years ago. The number of young people between 13 and 24 going abroad in 2011, reached 11 percent from 10 percent in 2009, according to the report. (Yonhap)