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Suicide performance and journalist ethics

Posted July. 29, 2013 05:44,   


Korea’s male rights group representative fell off a bridge over the Han River in Seoul and went missing. Sung Jae-ki of Korean Men’s Association appealed for support the association on his website implying that he could fall off from a bridge, a day before his actual fall. The performance that put his life at risk eventually led to a suicide.

It is unclear whether Sung intended to kill himself beyond his suicide performance. Before he fell off the bridge, he twittered, “I’m confident that I can survive.” He also checked the depth of water before he jumped off and arranged a safety guard. He seemed to have recognized the risk of suicide because he said, “If something goes wrong with me, the Secretary General will succeed the representative of the association following me. Please remember me even if my lame attempt fails.” It could possibly be a suicide out of willful negligence. A concern is that other people could follow his reckless bravado.

The members of the association and KBS reporters were at the site where Sung jumped off. His suicide performance was premised on media exposure. The members who tried to post his photos on the website and KBS reporters who tried to his story could have encouraged his performance. KBS reporters, in particular, did not comply with the code of conduct as journalists. It was dangerous to swim in the Han River at the time when the water level was high and current was strong. KBS explained that it called for rescue before and after he jumped off, and did not air its video clip. Putting reporting before life at a time when police and rescue workers are not on spot cannot be justified.

Korean Men’s Association has insisted on the abolition of the Gender Equality and Family Ministry and the revival of the extra point system for males who served in the military, raising a provocative issue that males are discriminated against women in Korea. The male advocacy group has been under financial distress with more than 200 million won (179,940 U.S. dollars) debts because it did not get government support unlike women’s groups. Sung’s suicide performance was planned to raise the public attention and raise funds. But no attempt that takes advantage of life can be justified for an easy solution to a problem. It is sorrowful to see that the reckless suicide performance has undermined the ethics of life.