S. Korea’s suicide rate falls slightly in 2022: data

South Korea's suicide rate inched down in 2022 after the COVID-19 pandemic, though it remained at the highest level among major advanced nations, data showed Thursday. A total of 12,906 people took their own lives in 2022, and the number of suicides per every 100,000 South Koreans came to 25.2, down from the previous year's 26, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea. The rate had risen from 13.7 in 2000 to 24.8 in 2005 and 31.7 in 2011 before falling moderately to come below 25 in 2017. The figure then had grown from 2018-2021, except for 2020, according to the agency. Based on the 2020 data, South Korea had the highest suicide rate among member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with 24.1 out of every 100,000 people. Lithuania came next with 18.5 and Slovenia with 15.7, followed by Japan with 15.4 and Belgium with 14.8, according to the OECD data. "Suicide closely links to individuals' quality of life. The suicide rate tends to increase in accordanc e with drastic social changes or instability so it represents structural features of a society and social unity," the agency said in its annual report on indicators of the people' quality of life. By gender, the suicide rate among men more than doubled than that among female citizens, with 35.3 out of every 100,000 men taking their own lives in 2022. The country also saw a higher suicide rate among those in their 70s and older, as the figure among people in their 70s came to 37.8 and that for those in their 80s stood at 60.6 in 2022. The rate among males aged 70 and above came to a whopping 78.8, and the comparable figure for women in the same age group came to 23.1. The report also showed that South Korea's life expectancy fell for the first time since 1970 in 2022 due to COVID-19 to come to 82.7 years. Women were expected to live 85.6 years on average, compared with 79.9 years for their male counterparts. The country had reported a constant rise in the life expectancy from 62.3 years in 1970 to 76 yea rs in 2000, 80.2 years in 2010 and 83.5 years in 2020. Some 21.1 percent of South Koreans aged 65 and above lived alone in 2023, up from 20.9 percent a year ago. Amid rapid population aging, the number of senior citizens jumped 2.8 times from 2000 to 2023, and the number of those who lived alone surged 3.7 times, the data showed. In terms of employment and income, the country's employment rate in 2023 hit the highest level of 62.2 percent since 2000, though the proportion of low-paid workers rose to 16.9 percent in 2022 from the previous year's 15.6 percent. The incidence of low pay refers to the share of workers earning less than two-thirds of median earnings. The net household assets marked an on-year fall after a yearslong upturn. The net assets per household came to 390 million won (US$292,968) in 2023, down 7.89 percent on-year due mainly to the property market slump. (LEAD) MLB All-Star Ryu Hyun-jin returns to KBO, signs megadeal with ex-team Eagles Ryu Hyun-jin is coming home. The Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) announced Thursday that they have signed Ryu, a former major league All-Star, to an eight-year contract worth 17 billion won (US$12.8 million). The deal makes him the highest-paid player in South Korea and immediately sent shockwaves through the top domestic league. Ryu, 36, most likely has finished his Major League Baseball (MLB) career after seven years with the Los Angeles Dodgers and four more with the Toronto Blue Jays. As a Dodger, Ryu was the National League (NL) starter at the All-Star Game in 2019 and was the runner-up in the NL Cy Young Award voting that same year, when he led MLB with a 2.32 ERA. Ryu first pitched for the Eagles from 2006 to 2012. He was voted the regular season MVP and the Rookie of the Year in his first season, when he led the KBO with 18 wins, 2.23 ERA and a rookie-record 204 strikeouts. Ryu's long contract includes an opt-out, but the Eagles declined to disclose details per mutual agreement with the player. Ryu is the fourth South Ko rean MLB All-Star to play in the KBO, following pitchers Park Chan-ho and Kim Byung-hyun, and outfielder Choo Shin-soo. During his first Eagles stint, Ryu led the KBO in strikeouts five times and won two ERA titles. He had a 98-52 record with a 2.80 ERA in 190 appearances. The workhorse also topped the KBO in complete games on five occasions. After a successful seven-year run in the KBO, Ryu was posted for MLB clubs ahead of the 2013 season. The Dodgers won the bid for the exclusive rights to negotiate with Ryu by submitting a little over $25.7 million in a silent auction. They then signed the pitcher to a six-year, $36 million contract. Ryu became the first South Korean player to jump from the KBO to MLB. Ryu went 54-33 with a 2.98 ERA in six seasons with the Dodgers. He missed the entire 2015 season with shoulder injury, and made just one appearance in 2016 before hitting the sidelines with elbow problems. Ryu enjoyed his best season in 2019, when he led MLB with a 2.32 ERA. He was named the National Le ague (NL) starter at the All-Star Game, the first South Korean to be so honored, and finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting, the highest placement by a South Korean pitcher. He signed a four-year, $80 million contract with the Blue Jays in December 2019, the largest contract awarded to a free agent pitcher in Blue Jays history at the time. In the 2020 season, shortened to 60 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ryu finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting, thanks to a 5-2 record and a 2.69 ERA in 12 starts. He had an up-and-down 2021 campaign, which was followed by the injury-plagued 2022 season, in which he only made six starts before undergoing Tommy John elbow operation. Ryu returned to the mound in August 2023 and pitched to a 3.46 ERA over 11 starts, a solid performance by a 36-year-old pitcher coming off his second elbow surgery. After Ryu's deal with Toronto expired following the 2023 season, Ryu was expected to draw some interest in the open market as a useful, savvy ve teran starter who could round out the back end of a rotation. Despite being linked to a few clubs, Ryu, a client of the uber-agent Scott Boras, couldn't find a big league deal to his liking. And the Eagles swooped in with an offer he couldn't refuse. The Eagles had remained in touch with Ryu throughout the offseason. Talks picked up pace in recent days, with general manager Son Hyuk openly expressing optimism this week that the Eagles were close to signing the star pitcher. Since Ryu left for the Dodgers after the 2012 season, the Eagles have made the postseason just once in 2018, while finishing in last place five times. Even at his advanced age, Ryu should immediately become one of the KBO's top starting pitchers and should also command huge interest wherever he goes. Source: Yonhap News Agency