Why Koreans are killing themselves in droves

South Koreans are under enormous pressure to succeed at work, school and in relationships, and to care for their families, fueling an abysmal suicide rate that is the highest in the OECD group of developed countries. About 40 Koreans commit suicide every day, making it the nation’s fourth-highest cause of death in 2012.

From The Global Post

This is a very sad fact of life here.  One of the biggest issue cited is financial burden.  Well that’s no surprise given the outrageous cost to heat a place.  Korea’s public transportation is more than affordable….for those than can afford it.  When you are working for Minimum wage ($4.25/hr) how the hell could you ever possible afford your own place let alone heat the damn thing?  We just moved from Samcheonpo where we had this one room apartment.  The kitchen/bathroom was ‘kinda’ another room but in reality, just a long hallway with a door that closed off one end.

In the 3 coldest months of the year is cost us $250 EACH MONTH just to heat the place….and we switched to small portable heaters that were CHEAPER than the floor heating.

A couple of things thought you need to know.  Korea does NOT believe in insulation.  The walls of apartments, while thick, are only just concrete.  Zero insulation at all.  Now, our place was on the ‘first’ floor.  First meaning the first livable level, the ground floor was a parking lot.



Our apartment was the grey building on the left.  You can see the main window and the tiny little bathroom window.

Here is a typical Korean house undergoing some renovations.  Pay close attention to the wall thickness and notice you will see nothing that indicates any kind of insulation use and your floor is right on the ground.


Now here’s where it gets stupid.  We all know that an apartment is basically a cube, 8 sides.  Our apartment only had TWO of those sides NOT exposed to outside walls.  This includes the floor where the cars parked right below.  We were constantly fighting to keep the place at a decent temperature.  We once tried a bigger oscillating heater (kinda like an oscillating fan but just a heating element with a reflective panel behind it).  That worked out nicely for two weeks but one day a service guy came buy and showed me a nearly $400 bill so far!  Fuck me!  Well, when he saw the heater he pointed at it.  Guess they may have been concerned that either there was a problem or we had a grow-op going on :P

So, back to heating.

Our new place ONLY has 2 sides exposed to outside walls (front and back…apartments in bigger/older building run full-width of building…which are generally thin tall things).  So while we will have 6 other sides providing insulation our new place is 3 bedrooms.  In fact, our old place could fit into the master bedroom.  So better insulation, significantly bigger area to heat.  A kind of loss there actually.

Oh, and we just found out that this building has a mix of fuels in it.  See, years ago everyone used to have a tank in the ground/basement where an oil truck would deliver the fuel for heating/cooking.  This place does have natural gas and I just figured it was converted.  Oh no, that ONLY does the gas range (they don’t do ovens typically here, so we basically got a stove top but no bottom.  We fixed that by buying a convection over<G>) and we just learned learned that we DO have an oil tank and guess what….it’s out of oil now.  So no hot water for showers.  Sigh.

We figured this out today and would have the fuel delivered today but we were out shopping.  So he’s coming Monday.  We can only boil water and do the sponge/towel baths till then.  I think Monday I’ll wait till the delivery :)

Now, as for cost, you are looking at about $600 to fill up the tank.  I don’t know the volume yet but I do know that the previous foreign teacher filled up at the beginning of her contract (mumble, would have been nice if she told us that…) so that tanks lasted her a whole year.  She didn’t use the floor heating but supplemented with electrical heater blankets and never used the 3rd bedroom or main bedroom but chose to sleep mostly in the living room on a mattress.

At about $50/month for fuel, that’s not too bad but it’s all relative right?  $50 is about 12hrs of work at min wage and this only gets you hot water and not even a warm place for a year.  This also assumes that you even have a job given the rather high unemployment rate here.  Don’t let the number full you.  Multiply it by 50,000,000(the current population approximately) and then you’ll get a sense of actually how many people that is.

Do I even want to bother adding in the fact that Korea is one of the worst of OCED for gender equality in terms of pay scale?  Ranking a whopping 120th out of 138 countries!

I really have no idea how they are ever going to fix this.  There’s going to have to be a major shift in the working class to get their shit together here.