The Korea Times 칼럼

Planning suicide? (2011년 4월 23일)

divicom 2011. 4. 23. 10:49

When I dropped by my father’s house a few days ago, he said at one point, ``Whether you are a human or a plant, your destiny is decided largely by where you are born.” He was referring to forsythia blooming in his apartment complex’s garden.

I agreed with him almost readily as I had been pondering the relations between people and their environment. I thought about Japan and its people suffering in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. I also thought about the Islamic women in France who oppose Paris’ ban on face hiding veils ― burqa and niqab.

As I was leaving my father’s apartment, I discovered the forsythia he had talked about. The flowers were in the center of the garden and I wondered how I hadn’t noticed them before. The bright sea of yellow was mesmerizing. I closed my eyes and buried my nose among the flowers. How could I not know how wonderful forsythia smelled? Was it because they usually bloom on hills or somewhere I view from a distance but cannot access?

Exhilarated by the smell and the warm shiny April sun, I kept on walking, marveling at the forsythia that flanked the wide street. Then I mounted a hill of trees and rocks studded colorfully with magnolia, cherry, and azalea blossoms. I went to a quieter part of the hill which was not seen from the street. There too were flowers blooming all over and I could see modest yet splendid violet in addition to the flourishing ivory, white and pink petals.

I wondered if the flowers there were unhappy for a lack of attention. When people are unhappy, their faces show it. Do the plants show their unhappiness? I looked at the corolla and the petals closely, but couldn’t tell if they were unhappy. I could only tell that their colors were even more vivid than those of their friends on the other side of the hill. I saw a brownish pile of pine needles and sat on them and went on with my idle thoughts.

People yearn for recognition. They compete with one another and want to win. Do the plants do that, too? Do they fight for attention and praise? I don’t think so. They may do their best to get more sunlight and nutrients and their heavily curved branches may be the telling sign of their desperate endeavor to survive and thrive despite their location.But they wouldn’t do that at the cost of fellow plants.

Animals, including humans, have more freedom than plants. If their surroundings are unbearably unfavorable, they can leave for where they can realize their potential or dreams more easily. Look at my father. Left alone with his poverty-stricken mother in his early teens, he left his mountainous home to a provincial city where he could fare better. He later moved to Seoul again for more opportunities. He now says he achieved more than he dreamed in his life. In a sense, he is counter-proof of his own theory about place and destiny.

Then I thought about young people, who in my eyes are all pretty and handsome as flowers, killing themselves. I had just heard that Kim Yu-ri, a 21-year-old fashion model, was found dead in her house. Police are investigating whether she committed suicide; she had repeatedly talked about the difficulty of living on a strict diet. Her death reminded me of two other models who claimed their own lives in 2008 and 2009 and the four students of the prominent Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) who took their own lives over the past four months.

People envy living in prominence but it doesn’t necessarily mean happiness. Like the flowers on the less visible side of the hill, people can live happily without recognition or praise from others. If the things we do trouble us so badly as to push us to death’s doorstep, we don’t have to do that. We humans are luckier than the plants and animals in that we have many more choices and chances. We can thrive without being a skinny model or a KAIST student.

If there is any young person planning to take their own life, I would like to tell them to die as a victor, if not a hero. If one kills oneself depressed over one’s problems, one is a loser. If one kills oneself for social justice, one becomes a martyr or a winner. Think about the heroes of the April 19 Revolution whose 51st anniversary fell on Tuesday. Of the 1,893 anti-government protesters who were injured during the pro-democracy struggle in 1960, 1,411 were in their teens and 20s. Because of their blood and the deaths of 187 men and women, the nation could topple a dictatorial government.

If you don’t want to live any longer, that’s all right. Just don’t waste your body and soul by jumping off a bridge or hanging yourself. Please think big and give yourself up for the betterment of your society or the world. There is far too much work to be done here and elsewhere.


자살을 계획 중이라고?


스물 한 살 패션모델 김유리 씨가 자기 집에서 숨진 채 발견되었습니다. 모델 몸매를 유지하기 위해 늘 다이어트를 해야 하는 게 힘들다고 자주 얘기했었다는 유리씨가 자살했다는 보도가 있었고, 경찰은 그 보도의 진위를 수사하고 있다고 합니다.


유리씨 소식을 들으니 2008년과 2009년에 스스로 목숨을 끊은 두 모델이 떠오르고 지난 4개월 동안 네 명이 자살하여 세간의 이목을 집중시키고 있는 카이스트도 생각납니다. 사는 것이 쉬운 일이 아니니 누구나 죽음을 생각할 때가 있지만, 눈을 조금만 크게 떠보면 자신의 삶보다 힘든 삶을 영위하는 사람들이 많고 그들을 위해 해야할 일도 많습니다.


그래도 꼭 죽어야겠다고 마음먹은 젊은이가 있다면 이렇게 말해주고 싶습니다. 개인적 문제를 해결하지 못해 죽어버리면 패배하는 것이다. 꼭 죽어야 한다면 4.19혁명의 주역들처럼 사회나 세계적 문제의 해결을 위해 죽어서 승리자가 되거나 순교자가 되라.


지난 화요일은 4.19혁명 51주년. 당시 반정부 시위를 벌이다 다쳐 병원에 실려간 사람은 1,893명, 그중 1,411명은 십대와 이십대 젊은이들이었습니다. 그들이 흘린 피와 187명의 희생자들 덕에 혁명은 성공했고 독재정권은 무너졌습니다. 지금도 그런 젊은이들이 해야할 일은 아주 많이 있습니다.