EDIT: They also say things like "Be more appreciative that you were not born in North Korea!"
I think there's something specific about suicide in the East that we just don't have in the West for whatever reason. There's a sort of social acceptance of it, but here, there's no tolerance of it. Maybe there's more resources for depressed people in the West as mental illness is beginning to shed its stigma since the start of things like psychoanalysis and the mainstreaming of therapy and anti-depressants. These things may not have properly made it to Asia. Not to mention, societies based on Confucianism put so much emphasis on shame that a reasonable way out of it is to just kill yourself. The idea of treating mental illness and challenging suicide acceptance may be culturally repellant and tough to challenge. Japan also suffers from this and is famous for its suicide forests and very high suicide rate.
On your resume, you have to put things like:
- your picture: they grade how you look. some people do plastic surgery for this.
- your age: you have to be fresh out of college. over 30? no chance.
- your family info (not sure if still required): what does your father do? how much does he make? where do you live? is it a rent or owned?
- list goes on.
Now if you are really lucky and you get into those big companies, then they will pay you $40k-$50k a year which is very high compared to small companies where $20-$30k is average.
But, now you have no life. There is no such thing as work life balance.
There's no equity compensation in Korea. You get only the salary and bonus.
Cost of living and housing price is very high (avg $400-500k in Seoul).
You need to slave away the next 30 years to get out of debt. Then, you must retire at age 60. (retirement age is set in stone and you basically get fired).
Now do you really want to give birth to your children who will probably end up living the same life as yours?
I think this somewhat explains the extremely low birth rate and very high suicidal rate.
Are you sure? I'm not so sure. I think we just don't talk about it. There is a lot of suicide in the West. Staggeringly plenty.
Look at any statistics and you'll see that in most of the West, suicide is at the very peak of causes of death. 10th leading cause of death in 2013 officially. And that doesn't count all those "Swerved left into oncoming traffic for no obvious reason" cases.
And pay attention to the news. Every "found dead in their apartment" news report for a famous person is a suicide. There's a lot of those.
But the West has a very strong ethic of not reporting suicide for fear of suicide epidemics. That's why celebrity suicides are never reported as suicides and why suicides in general rarely make it into the news.
In short, suicide is a very real problem in the West too.
Rather than invoking conspiracy theories, consider this much simpler theory: Western media doubles as entertainment and doesn't report much on suicide when they don't have to because it's fucking depressing.
Yes Dorothy, there are places with worse suicide rates than others. Stop pretending suicide data is wrong because of your pet politics.
East Asia has one major cultural difference with the West that's relevant in this case. Status is taken to an extreme i.e. your job, your education, your clothes, your car, your lodgings, ...
In other words, "you are your clothes, your bank account, ...". When you don't have those things in East Asia, you're not that far from a homeless person in terms of status.
There are many articles (written in Korean) that list those restrictions, for example:
For young people, more realistic unemployment rate is 34.2% or 1.8million according to this article:
Halfway down, I realize it's just like any other big company tactics.
Some upper management suggest all employees practice positive thinking, offering a course on how do deal with stress, forced laughter, etc.
Then I wondered how common this practice was for a company to offer this to their employees in the same way a company would offer free massages or therapy.
Seems to be a common, even competitive business in Korea.
Now I'm not sure how I feel about it. It could be some big new spiritual trend, but it could also be some shady business taking advantage of the depressed.
Really, it's just too deliberately traumatic.
Actually, things like "Est" often used shock tactics, and were deliberately traumatic. (Though only slightly in the vast scheme of things.)
If so, given the existentiality of this issue, the fact that the company is handling this is scary.
PS: Some good ole Pink Floyd music would suit this as well.
Something like that? If I remember correctly, the whole Dark Side of the Moon album is one big birth to death existentialism essay...
Let's call this person "Bob". It's my impression that since torsos are buoyant it would be basically impossible for Bob to sink. So now Bob just needs to wriggle in such a fashion as to move in some direction and occasionally get his head above water to take a breath.
Of the many challenges that a limbless person faces, swimming would have to be among the easiest. Certainly easier than e.g. donning a swimsuit.
1) I don't want to get in trouble
2) I want to please someone
3) I want to follow the rules
4) I want to help other people
and the highest level,
5) I have a personal moral code, and I abide by it
He explained these as levels we reach with age - entering school at age 5 or 6 we first hide from trouble. Then in first grade we want to please the nice teacher. Somewhere in middle school kids become rules-lawyers. Later in life they may learn to be philanthropic.
People can be stuck at one of these early levels for life.
The one missing stage is #2, self-interest, which in this framing would be "I want to please myself."
In my creole ex-girlfriend's family, you never mentioned death. Ever. To do so was to tempt fate.
Many American-Christian cultures, by contrast, have a general sense of optimism, redemption, eternalism, and a belief that the future will be better than the past, coupled with specific feelings of guilt, irresponsibility, and imperfection. God loves us and He will forgive our sins, as long as we accept Him into our hearts. And so this drive to master the world before it masters us is not so strong, because the world is fundamentally benevolent. At least that was the message I got from my Irish-Catholic maternal grandfather.
The juxtaposition of the two belief systems is very striking, if you're exposed to both, and can lead to many misunderstandings. I remember being so frustrated with my dad and his constant pronouncements that the world was about to end in 3 weeks, a belief that, when I mention it to American friends, is considered outright paranoia. But having grown up a bit and married a Taiwanese-American woman who once lived in rural Peru, it's interesting to compare different cultures and their fundamental beliefs. This belief that we're eternally dying doesn't seem to faze most Asians; they just accept it and go about their life.
It's also interesting to see how quickly many Asians adopt Christianity once they immigrate to the West. I've got both family members and in-laws who have gone that route; I'd imagine that the promise of eternal salvation when coming from a culture that has this constant background message of inevitable death and societal decay must be pretty attractive.
There's something terribly unhealthy about being stuck in an office all day. The risk/reward mechanism is screwy (do an amazing job, get the same salary as doing a lackluster job), we don't move enough, don't get enough sunlight, and it brings out the worst of people as getting ahead usually means playing a mean and dishonest game of politics against your coworkers.
According two Wikipedia, it's ranked number #2 in the world and double the rate of sucide of America:
If so, we can hope that SK will gradually improve, especially if they can figure out how to corral the out-of-control signaling arms-race which is their educational system. (Although this also predicts bad news for China in the coming decades.)
One family-owned conglomerate controlling 20% of a nation's GDP and basically all industries belongs in some dystopian TV show, not real life….
Inability to talk through negative emotions with friends and family
In US easy availibity of guns helps.
Although there are some consumer protection laws in place, e.g. in some states, funeral homes must allow you to provide your own coffin. If you do, however, they will just charge you more for other services to make up the difference.
The funeral industry is another area which needs disruption.
> In a large room in a nondescript modern office block in Seoul, staff from a recruitment company are staging their own funerals. Dressed in white robes, they sit at desks and write final letters to their loved ones. Tearful sniffling becomes open weeping, barely stifled by the copious use of tissues.
> The macabre ritual is a bonding exercise designed to teach them to value life. Before they get into the casket, they are shown videos of people in adversity - a cancer sufferer making the most of her final days, someone born without all her limbs who learned to swim.
Showing how worse things could be is a very cheap and torturous way to build appreciation and attempt to increase morale.
> The participants at this session were sent by their employer, human resources firm Staffs. "Our company has always encouraged employees to change their old ways of thinking, but it was hard to bring about any real difference," says its president, Park Chun-woong.
> "I thought going inside a coffin would be such a shocking experience it would completely reset their minds for a completely fresh start in their attitudes."
> He [Park Chun-woong, company president] also insists that his staff engage in another ritual every morning when they get to work - they must do stretching exercises together culminating in loud, joint outbursts of forced laughter. They bray uproariously, like laughing asses together. It is odd to see.
Here is a much better way to improve morale and to prevent the helplessness that leads to suicides:
- pay workers a livable wage
- create an environment where the workday is completely and separated from the personal day
- and one where it is possible for the worker to fully live their lives apart from their workplaces
Then none of these charades will ever be necessary again.
The belief system of Sinosphere is built on ancestor worship. Every year, family gather together and goes to ancestor's tomb, do some cleaning and present offering to the other world, memorizing the ceased while appreciating contemporary life. I think this ritual works pretty much the same way, though it might feel weird, but outcome isn't that bad.
I wouldn't necessarily trust the positive feedback from participants either. After all, who would willingly give truthful feedback to an employer that actually believes that this would have the kind of positive effect they seem to believe that it would?
It is used and viewed as a therapy for a lot of people. I do agree that people should be given the choice to turn down it.
This is totally a cult-worshipping style setup where the name of the game isn't employee health but ever increasing amounts of company loyalty. Notice how one of the participants was quoted as wanting to "bring more passion" to their work. People who need this treatment need a bigger life change than some theatrics plus some what is most likely unenthusiastic if not totally coerced admission that the bullshit helped.
Finally, don't bring "eastern asian background" into this. You should be able to argue for or against something without using your background to appeal to idiots and racists.
Taking differences of culture into account when talking about practices in different countries make perfect sense. If there were no differences, then the "strange behaviors" we see reported would not baffle us and there wouldn't be any need for such an article. So, I think that the fact that eva1984 mentioned his background let's us know that by having a shared culture he can give us insights into what's happening that we don't necessarily have. Even if we don't agree with the practice, it's interesting to see how it's perceived there.
That said, I do agree with you in that overly paternalistic employers and a definition of life centered around the company (leading to overtime, obligatory parties with the company, etc..) as done in Japan and Korea is often not very good for employees mental health and is probably one of the reason for the increased rate of suicide.
Some people are realizing this (in Japan at least). A bit more than 10 years ago I taught English part time on weekends to retired people in Japan and one of the thing that stuck with me is how many of the men regretted that they hadn't taken more time to enjoy life and do things they want before retiring. I had that discussion with them as I was starting a seishain position in a Japanese company and was surprised by the amount of Sabisu Zangyo (unpaid over time) and the time spent on company dinners etc... They were warning me to be careful and not let myself eaten by the company life.
This x 10. There is being open-minded and there is letting your brains fall out. You can be culturally sensitive, but that should stop when you see victims being stamped upon by a large firm boot, slowly and quietly into the dirt.
Assuming you know better than the people might be the boot stamping you don't see.
(I'm not part of the culture and have no opinion of it. I just disagree that being east asian is irrelevant to something happening involving east asian cultures and religious practices.)
It's just a way to get something of your head and accept the inevitable. The culture is different, so I doubt it could ever work here, but given how many upvotes any story related to depression or suicide gets on HN, SV could probably use something too.
Somebody tried to explain to me that East Asians "roleplay" their parts social hierarchies. It's the job of the boss to patronize and it's the job of the workers to play their role. Officially everything is strict and proper, but in reality there are many accepted ways to break the rules without causing undue fuss. There are lazy workers in Japan and Korea like everywhere else. It's the job of the boss to yell at them like he is really angry, but workers know that their job security and place in the organization is secure if they do the minimum (compared to the same situation in US).
Might not all be so bad if your wife is a bad cook though. Korean BBQ is delicious.
My point being: labor laws are fundamental, but they don't trump a) on one hand, a bad economical situation; and b) on the other hand, a die-hard culture of constantly finding ways around the law.
Labour laws are not so much the issue.
This is a cultural phenom.
And you need a certain age to appreciate them (for example the child holiday thing).
Regarding the worker rights:
Not only do you get a decent amount of holidays (around 30 in most companies, with additional free days for parents), but you can also take up to 14 months leave after childbirth (both father and mother, but combined not 14 months each and one person has to take at least 2 months to get the full amount). Your company has to offer you the job if you come back.
You can't get fired on a whim if you didn't do anything wrong. Most jobs will have to give you a 3 to 6 months notice (depending on how long you were working there).
Companies have to pay at least 8,50 Euro per hour.
The law says that you are not allowed to work more than eight hours a day, however exceptions are possible to some extend.
It's generally a good idea to have longer periods of job security but for someone who can (in theory) get rehired quickly the laws can get in the way, too.
There's also inflexible stuff that gets in my way quite often. For example I have to rest for 11 hours before I can work again and can only work 11h/day without bureaucratic hassle. I get that it's meant to fight abuse but I'd prefer to have an easy way to waive these rights.
I would totally expect this to happen for basically every minimum wage job if you could waive your rights like this.
An easy way to waive those rights would mean that effectively no one would have those rights. Quite frankly, it is better to err more on the side of caution in these things. Work will still be there tomorrow.
I think some of this could be solved with different regulations for different kinds of jobs. More "thinky" jobs probably need a lot less regulation than say manual labor.
If you work in shifts, some other rules apply but at the end, you cannot go over the 48h/week on average and have special "recovery" days.
But in Germany you have a lot of agreements for let say metal workers or people in the chemical industry. In some cases, the official week is only 37h or even 35h long.
I'd say that other than civil servants, people working in the "Handwerk" (a German concept that includes various industrial jobs and skilled crafts, literally "manual labour" but often implying specialised expertise) have it best as they typically work under union contracts and have fairly tight regulations.
OTOH loan workers tend to have it worst: loan workers bypass a lot of the labour laws and often get all of the drawbacks of being self-employed without the benefits of actual free agency. They're often hired to replace permanent employees, so they're sometimes met with hostility from their colleagues and they have no job security and often no way to transfer to a permanent position (both because that's often exactly what they're there to replace and because they're often under non-compete contracts that forbid them from doing that).
Agency work also tends to be pretty bad, especially for designers: you're often expected to work unpaid overtime and there is a lot of pressure keeping people from exercising their rights or asking for a raise. I've routinely seen designers work weekends and massive overtime (think 12 hours, not 10) for months on end. The worst story I heard was of a 32 hour day (working on a regular day until the next morning and then leaving "on time" the next day).
Note that not every agency is like this, but they exist and it's taken for granted that you have to "eat dirt" if you really want to work in the industry. This especially used to be a problem with internships but thanks to some changes to a few laws interns have it pretty good these days (e.g. "voluntary" interns have to be paid minimum wage, making them a lot less cost efficient than they used to be).
Also, of course, almost none of the labour protection laws apply to leadership roles (typically C-level jobs). The reasoning behind this probably being that if you run a company having to take time off can get in the way. Sadly this also means there are some strange corner cases for founders (e.g. you get almost none of the maternity protection).
It's probably hindered a bunch of people from starting companies in the region and makes getting a job much harder because employers have to be extra careful.
By tradition, first 6 months of employment are on probation ("Probezeit"), with 2 weeks' notice possible on both sides. Companies can opt out of probation time, though, if they want.
I very much doubt it. If you were really wanting to start a company, you're not thinking, "I'd do this totally awesome thing! If only it wasn't so hard to fire people!"
You quickly realize that because of investment money and running a company, that running it in germany isn't that great and you move the company to the USA.
It happens more than you think.
Another option is to hire someone who is self employed. It is a popular method since the crisis. Fire an employee, then hire him back. However, if the employee only has one client, you can go to court and prove that in fact nothing has changed, and the judge can reinstate your old contract. I don't know if this happens a lot, but it has happened.
When you have a fixed contract (no end date) and work somewhere for five years, the law says the employer can fire you but has to pay you five months salary. Because of common law practice, this will normally be doubled. He has to prove that he has good reason to fire you. This is in general too little work, or malpractise, or distrust or something that disturbed the work relationship. If this can't be proved, the only option is negotiation about extra money to leave. If they can't agree on this, they can ask a judge. That will cost money as well, so most of the time that path is avoided.
Only in the case of theft or when you're drunk at work, say bad things about your boss or company, can they fire you right there and then without pay. Still they have to prove that.
When unemployed, you can get unemployment benefits, normally 70% of your last salary (average over last 6 months), but you have to search for new jobs and prove that. This will last maximum 24 months, after which you go into welfare, which is super, but little money and you have to sell your house etc.
No, I don't think that's really it.
The suicide issues in East Asia are highly contextualized to those cultures.
They don't live the same way we do.
They live in highly structured and organized societies with very strong social norms and obligations.
Add in some hyper materialism in S. Korea since the war.
The benefit of this social order is very low crime, fairly efficient society. But the drawback is that a small percent can't take it type thing.
You know how many gun deaths there were in Japan last year? Like one! Of course it has something to do with extremely strict gun control, but it has mostly to do with their culture.
It's not so much a 'workplace' issue so much as it is a cultural issue.
Common misconception is that companies choose what wage to pay. Unless you're a massively growing startup infused with millions or billions of VC cash, you're pretty much locked into market forces just as the consumer is locked into market prices.
> - create an environment where the workday is completely and separated from the personal day
> - and one where it is possible for the worker to fully live their lives apart from their workplaces
They already do this.
Personally, I would have thought of better mental health care and limiting access to firearms and dangerous medications, so your proposal seemed very out of left field.