Suicide prevention programmes for N Korean defectors to be developed

30-Oct-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The government will develop a suicide prevention programme specifically tailored for North Korean defectors, as part of efforts to curb the high suicide rate among defectors.

Three agencies ? the Settlement Support centre for North Korean Refugees (Hanawon), the Korea Hana Foundation (KHF) and the Korea Suicide Prevention centre (KSPC) ? signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), Tuesday, vowing cooperation in the understanding and development of suicide prevention programmes aimed at those who have defected from the North.

With this agreement, the organisations plan to collaborate in areas such as educational training as well as exchanges of materials, human resources and relevant data to boost suicide prevention awareness among defectors.

“Because Hanawon and the KHF are unification ministry-affiliated agencies providing general support for North Korean defectors, we lack expertise in the fields of suicide prevention and mental health. Therefore, in order to more actively engage in the training process and strengthen our capabilities, we have signed the agreement with the KSPC that specialises in suicide prevention,” a Hanawon official said.

Although Hanawon has been providing similar programmes for defectors since 2016, the terms used in the programmes and discussed cases did not fit the defectors’ unique circumstances. As a result, the centre has decided this year to commission the relevant agencies to develop a more systematic education programme specifically tailored for defectors. The programme will be implemented next year.

“During their escape, North Korean defectors are often exposed to traumatic events, and even in South Korea, many of them have difficulties adjusting to the new culture. So this MOU was signed in order to develop suicide prevention programmes that suit their needs and characteristics,” said Paik Jong-woo, director of the KSPC.

“Moreover, the mental health professionals here still do not possess a full understanding of the defectors’ circumstances so through this cooperation between Hanawon’s internal experts and suicide prevention professionals of the KSPC, we are working to figure out what psychological supports they need.”

The suicide rate of North Korean defectors last year reached 10.1 percent, meaning eight out of a total of 79 who died last year took their own lives, Rep. Kim Young-joo?of the ruling Democratic Party of?Korea said, October 7, based on the unification ministry’s report. This figure is more than twice the suicide rate of the general South Korean public, 4.5 percent.

Reasons for defectors’ suicidal thoughts included physical and mental illnesses or disabilities, followed by financial difficulties, domestic conflicts and loneliness.


Category: Korea

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