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The New York Times on Korean Americans and Suicide

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

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Reader Carleandria sent us this strange New York Times article about heightened suicide rates in Korean American New York communities:

The number of suicides reported to the local Korean Consulate General has more than doubled this year, to 15 from 6 last year, and there were 5 in 2007. All of the dead were Korean citizens, said the consulate, which does not keep statistics on Korean-Americans.

The consul general, Kyungkeun Kim, said he believed that the actual total of suicides by Korean citizens might be more than twice as high. The Korea Times, a Korean-language newspaper published in the United States, reported in September that at least 36 Koreans and Korean-Americans in the New York region had taken their lives this year.

Money troubles have been the leading force behind the sharp rise, say Korean civic leaders and officials, who are alarmed by the trend.

While I assume these figures are accurate, the NYT offers no yardstick by which to interpret these numbers. For example, how does the Korean New Yorker suicide rate compare to the overall suicide rate in the US or simply in New York state? Why highlight suicide within the Korean New York community, as opposed to highlighting suicide rates in general? And how does this suicide rate compare to Korean communities in the rest of the US?

What this comes down to for me is, why are the suicides of the dead being pegged as an ethnic/cultural thing?

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