South Korea's suicide rate edged up last year and remained the highest in the developed world, in a sign of prolonged fallout from the pandemic.
Some 13,300 Koreans took their own lives -- or 26 out of every 100,000 people -- data from the national statistics office showed Tuesday. The ratio slightly increased from 25.7 in 2020, which was already the highest among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations.
Rising suicides follows recent data showing Korea shattered its own record for the world's lowest fertility last year. Policy makers have struggled with little success to tackle these issues, highlighting the social woes below one of Asia's most successful economies.
Suicides tend to rise when an economy performs badly, even though the timing may not coincide exactly, according to Song Min-kee, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Finance. While the economy rebounded last year from its pandemic slump, the jobless rate at one point hit the highest level since 1999.
Concerns about an economic downturn are mounting this year and with interest rates rising to curb inflation, household and business finances are coming under more strain.
Other causes for Korea's high suicide rate include pressure at school and work, shame over seeking help for depression and a lack of social protection for the elderly, experts say.