In what is suspected to be a suicide, police found the body of a physics professor at a prestigious local university hospital on Wednesday.
Lee, 58, one of the key authorities in the field of superconductivity, left a note reading, “I am sorry that I couldn’t produce a good thesis.”
The recent surge in suicides among the country’s elite and corporate executives has shocked people nationwide, and experts say they are the result of an overly competitive modern society.
“Although there are no studies which say that the ‘elite’ commit suicide more than others, suicides by ‘leaders’ have a bigger social influence compared to ordinary people,” said an official at the Korea Association for Suicide Prevention. “If a country’s social climate is shaky, [when suicides by well-known people surface] there is an increase in copycat suicides.”
Last Sunday, Kim, 39, a professor at a local university hospital, was found dead at the facility. Police found anti-depressant medication in his research lab. Later, Kim’s family confessed to police that he was under watch by the disciplinary committee at the hospital under suspicion of misusing its operating funds.
One of the first such suspected suicide cases this year happened on Jan. 26, when a Samsung Electronics vice president, Lee, 51, was found dead in front of his apartment building in Seoul. The Gangnam Police Precinct said that a memo was found saying that Lee had been under a lot of stress at work as quarterly earnings announcements loomed.
Lee, a core figure of Samsung Electronics’ semiconductor division, received the “Samsung Fellow” award in 2006, in recognition of being one of the best engineers in the group.
Medical experts say depression is quite common among people with distinguished careers, including doctors, company heads or scientists, as they fear failure more than others.
Ha Ji-hyeon, a psychology professor at Konkuk University, said that depression caused by a fear of failure is prominent in “elite” middle-aged men.
“Although there are three to four times more middle-aged women compared to middle-aged men who come in for counseling, this only means that men do not recognize their own depression as readily as women and also avoid treatment,” Ha said.
According to Ahn Dong-hyeon, a psychology professor at the Hanyang University Hospital, the more well-known a person is, the less likely he or she is to treat depression aggressively for fear that the illness may be made known. “These people tend to think that they can overcome depression by themselves, and try to hide it,” said Ahn.
By Kim Hyo-eun, Cho Jae-eun [firstname.lastname@example.org]