Seoul ‘Bridge of Life’ Still Attracts Suicide Attempts

November 8, 2013, 1:07 PM

Seoul ‘Bridge of Life’ Still Attracts Suicide Attempts



The message on the Mapo Bridge reads, “Aren’t you tired?”

The city of Seoul is standing by its efforts at calling attention to bridges over the Han River that are suicide hotspots, despite evidence that the attention is leading to more, not fewer, suicide attempts. Last September, one of the most notorious suicide spots, Mapo Bridge, was given a makeover, with its gray guardrails festooned with LED lighting, complemented by comforting and inspirational messages and pictures. Pedestrians’ movements are detected, prompting slogans to appear: “The most shining moment of your life has yet to come” or “Your worries will feel like nothing when you get older” or “A difficult moment will eventually flow like the river below.”The results have been mixed. In the first year since its renovation, 65 people attempted to kill themselves on the Bridge of Life, as the government has nicknamed Mapo Bridge, according to data from the Seoul Metropolitan Fire & Disaster Headquarters. That’s more than four times the 15 attempts in the previous year.

Kim Ki-yong, an official with the city’s bridge management team, disputed criticism that the bridge’s rebranding has been a failure, saying the number of deaths over the past year has fallen to two from six the previous year, crediting the city’s strengthened monitoring and rescue operations for the reduced fatality level.

But the increased number of suicide attempts does indicate that publicity for Mapo Bridge, one of 31 bridges spanning the Han River, has increased its allure to people considering taking their own lives.

And then there was the high-profile case of Sung Jae-gi, an activist who in July jumped from the bridge in what many people believed was a stunt to attract financial support for the group he was running, Men’s Alliance, which advocates against laws promoting gender equality, arguing that they discriminate against men.

Mr. Sung’s body wasn’t found until four days later, despite the fact that members of his group and state broadcaster KBS documented his jump—he was reportedly planning to survive the dive and swim to shore.

Lee Hun-seung, a ruling New Frontier Party lawmaker told the National Assembly last month that more resources should be put into rescue and prevention efforts.

“Over the past five years, 901 people attempted suicide on Han River bridges…and the average rescue success rate is only 60.4%,” he said, requesting more closed-circuit TVs as well as increased patrol and rescue personnel.

The city is pressing forward with its approach to reducing suicides, which it said last month fell for the first time in six years in 2012 thanks to an expansion of its antisuicide programs.

Earlier this week, the city government unveiled a second “Bridge of Life.”

The bridge management team’s Mr. Kim acknowledged the urgent need for stronger physical deterrence. “We plan to install higher fence on Mapo by the end of this year,” he said.

Seoul’s suicide rate fell to 23.8 people per 100,000 last year from 26.9 in 2011, still nearly double the average of 12.5 for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member nations.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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