Elderly suicide in Korean literature : a reflection on short- and medium-length novels

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    This article attempts to examine how elderly suicide is viewed in Korean novels, against the background that suicide rates are higher among older people in Korean society. Firstly, elderly suicide is caused by loneliness and alienation in some novels. Writers foreground some problems that people, especially elderly people, need to address. For example, not only people with negative personality traits but also people with positive personality traits can commit suicide when they cannot overcome disappointing words from their children; suicide is a greedy act if it is committed because of loneliness and alienation; elderly people need to humbly accept their lives, even though loneliness and alienation are unavoidable. Secondly, Korean novels make it clear that elderly suicide is closely related to Korean modern history. Old people experienced psychological trauma as they underwent the Korean War in the 1950s, the military dictatorship in the 1980s and the IMF crisis in the 1990s. When obsessed with a sense of guilt, older people sometimes commit suicide in order to atone for their wrongdoings. Thirdly, elderly suicide is depicted in positive terms in a novel, while suicide is usually considered to be a negative act. An elderly couple with physical illness commits suicide out of love for each other in hopes of reincarnation. This suicide is viewed as resolving the conflict between their daughter and her husband. In examining perspectives on elderly suicide as depicted in Korean novels, this article sheds light on reasons why some elderly people live unsound lives and suggests some solutions.