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Seoul Politician Blames Rising Male Suicides on Increasingly ‘Female-Dominated’ Society




South Korea has a stark suicide problem. It also has an increasingly sharp divide over gender roles in the country. A politician in the capital has drawn criticism for linking the two issues.

Local media reported Sunday on a June 28 press release by Seoul City Council Member Kim Ki-duck that included data on suicide attempts made at 21 bridges crossing the Han River from 2018-2023. Of 4,069 attempts, 2,487 were by men, 1,079 by women, and 503 by those of unknown gender. The report noted that in 2018, 430 people were reported to have attempted suicide on the bridges, including 288 men (67%), while in 2023, the total attempts rose to 1,035, with 798 (77%) involving males.

The press release quoted Kim suggesting a cause for the trend: “Unlike in the past when patriarchy and the ideology of male supremacy were prevalent, Korea has recently begun to change into a female-centric society with women outnumbering men by about 5% as of 2023. … As the number of women increases, various factors are occurring, including changes in the marriage market due to a shortage of men’s labor and an increase in men having difficulty finding marriage partners, as well as changes in the roles of men and women due to women’s participation in society.”

The solution, Kim concluded in the press release, was that “in order to overcome the expansion of the female-dominated phenomenon, it is necessary to improve gender equality awareness so that men and women can enjoy equal rights and opportunities.”

Kim told local paper Hankyoreh, “I wrote this based on my own personal views, inferring the cause of the male suicide rate.” The paper also cited experts who refuted Kim’s analysis, pointing out that men have long had higher suicide rates than women in Korea and across the world, regardless of the status of gender equality. Latest World Health Organization data shows the global age-standardized suicide rate to be more than twice as high for males (at 12.6 per 100,000) than for females (at 5.4 per 100,000).

Blaming feminism and “reverse discrimination” for social ills, including the country’s severe demographic decline, is not new in South Korea, even as the country remains far from “female-dominated.” South Korea’s overall gender equality has actually regressed in recent years, particularly in the realm of women’s political empowerment, according to the World Economic Forum’s most recent annual gender gap index, in which South Korea ranks 105th of 146 countries analyzed in 2023, down from 99th in 2022.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental-Health crisis or contemplating suicide, call or text 988. In emergencies, call 911, or seek care from a local hospital or mental Health provider. For international resources, click here.