Singer Choi Jin-young carries the photo of Choi Jin-sil, his late elder sister and the country's iconic actress, during a funeral ceremony at a Seoul hospital in October 2008 after she killed herself. He also took his own life in 2010. / Korea Times file
Ex-husband hangs himself
By Yi Whan-woo
The apparent suicide of Cho Sung-min, the ex-husband of the late movie and television star Choi Jin-sil, is more than another tragedy involving a celebrity.The 39-year-old ex-pitcher of Japan's Yomiuri Giants marked the third "connected suicide" after his ex-wife and her younger brother Jin-young.The late former couple is survived by their two children, who are being looked after by Choi's mother.Cho was found hanging in a bathroom at his girlfriend's apartment in Dogok-dong, southern Seoul, Sunday, according to police. He had sent a text message hinting at an attempted suicide to her, and she called the police. One Internet posting pointed out the similarities in the way the ex-couple killed themselves. Choi hanged herself in her bathroom in 2008. The two were married in 2000 and divorced in 2004.Cho remarried in 2007 but had been separated since 2010.Police are looking into the exact circumstances of his death.
|The late Cho Sung-min|
"The text message reads, ‘Thank you for everything and be strong even if I will be away.' And we assume Cho took his own life," an investigator said.The death of the ex-couple shocked the nation even more than their "fairytale" marriage that subsequently unraveled as if it was a bad soap opera.The death of the ex-couple shocked the nation even more than their "fairytale" marriage that subsequently unraveled as if it was a bad soap opera.Cho was a promising player _ he was one of the league's all-star team members in 1998. Choi featured in dozens of films as well as television dramas in the 1980s and 90s and was dubbed the "nation's actress." Their marriage took place despite Choi being five years older than Cho.However, the relationship deteriorated with the couple accusing each other of being "unfaithful" and they divorced in August 2004 after Cho was arrested for beating his wife.Choi was in a slump but was on the verge of coming back, when in October 2008 she killed herself in her apartment in Jamwon-dong, southern Seoul.She had reportedly been depressed since her divorce over worries of raising her two children alone.Police said she suffered due to rumors circulating on the Internet that her insistent demand for the repayment of debts led to the suicide of actor Ahn Jae-hwan. He borrowed a large sum from loan sharks over the years and killed himself in September 2008.Cho was embroiled in a dispute with the bereaved family of Choi as he sought custody of his son and daughter.Her younger brother and singer, Jin-young, deemed Cho's move as a step to take over her sister's wealth that her children were to inherit. The case was settled as Cho gave up his rights over her property.Choi's death resulted in a number of copy-cat suicides among people, including celebrities and also her brother. He reportedly had been depressed since his sister died and hanged himself in March 2010 at his apartment in Nonhyun-dong, southern Seoul.Her death also became tabloid fodder as a man in his 40s stole her remains in 2009, claiming he was "possessed by her soul that ordered him to do so."Cho had a slump in the Japanese league from 2002 because of ankle injuries. He returned to the Korean baseball league in 2005 to play for the Hanwha Eagles until October 2007, and then served as a TV commentator before joining the Doosan Bears in 2011 as a coach.He refused to extend his contract with the club in November last year when his term ended. Cho recently had a scuffle with strangers at a pub and underwent police questioning.
연예인 등 유명인의 자살 소식이 대중에 퍼지면 평균 약 600명이 그 영향으로 스스로 목숨을 끊는다는 추정이 나왔다.
따라서 자살 사건을 보도할 때는 모방 자살, 이른바 '베르테르 효과'를 막기 위해 방법 묘사 등을 최대한 자제해야 한다는 게 전문가들의 조언이다.
8일 자살예방협회(회장 하규섭 국립서울병원장)가 통계청의 자살 데이터를 분석한 결과에 따르면 지난 2005년 이후 5명의 유명 연예인 자살 이후 각 2개월간 우리 사회에서 자살로 생을 마감한 사람은 평균 2천631명으로 집계됐다.
이에 비해 각 사건의 전년과 이듬해 같은 기간(각 두 달) 자살자 수의 평균은 2천25명 정도였다.
결국 유명 연예인 자살 후 2개월 동안 사회 전체 자살자 수가 일반적 추세보다 평균 600여명 정도 늘었다고 추정할 수 있다는 게 협회측의 설명이다.
개별 사례별로 자살증가 효과를 살펴보면, ▲이은주 씨(2005년 2월) 495명 ▲유니씨(2007년 1월) 513명 ▲정다빈씨(2007년 2월) 322.5명 ▲안재환씨(2008년 9월) 694명 ▲최진실씨(2008년 10월) 1천8명 등이다.
특히 2008년의 경우 한 해 전체로는 약 1만2천명, 월 평균 1천200명이 자살했으나 유독 유명 연예인이 자살을 택한 10월에는 1천793명으로 급증했고 여파는 다음달인 11월(1천288명)까지 미쳤다. 더구나 주목할 대목은 해당 연예인과 같은 방법으로 자살한 사람의 수도 거의 비슷한 비율로 늘었다는 점이다.
하규섭 자살예방협회장은 '유명인 자살 후 급증했던 자살자 수가 시간이 지나 반대로 급격히 줄어드는 현상은 없었다'며 '이는 어차피 자살을 마음 먹은 분들이 유명인 자살에 영향을 받아 시기만 앞당겨 실행한 게 아니라 소식을 듣지 않았다면 자살하지 않았을 사람들이 목숨을 끊었다는 얘기'라고 설명했다.
유명인 모방 자살 현상만 잘 예방해도 현재 10만명당 33명 이상으로 OECD(경제협력개발기구) 1위 수준인 우리나라 자살률을 24명 수준까지 끌어내릴 수 있다고 그는 덧붙였다.
하 회장은 '핀란드의 경우 아무리 유명인이 자살을 해도 아무 설명없이 그냥 '사망했다' 또는 '사망한 채 발견됐다'라는 식으로 보도한다'며 '국내에서 모 유명 연예인이 치명적 방법으로 목을 매 숨지자 이와 같은 방식의 자살자 수가 급증했다는 통계는 시사하는 바가 많다'고 자살 보도에 신중을 당부했다.