North Korea families pressuring elderly to commit suicide

The cost of keeping older North Koreans alive is creating family conflicts.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea families pressuring elderly to commit suicide
Aging North Koreans can no longer depend on the regime for support, but their cash-strapped children are having a hard time making ends meet, according to sources in the country. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- More senior citizens in North Korea are being pressured to kill themselves because of intergenerational conflicts and the skyrocketing cost of medicine.

Elderly North Koreans who can no longer depend on the country's welfare system must also cope with their children who are sometimes apathetic to their needs, Radio Free Asia reported Thursday.


A source in North Hamgyong Province told RFA on Tuesday it is a common sight at parks or train stations to see senior citizens gathered together, even as temperatures continue to drop in some of the coldest parts of the country.

"[Korean War] veterans are among their numbers; it is heartbreaking to see them there," the source said.

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The elderly, who are no longer employable, leave their homes during the day to avoid friction with their children. They shiver in the cold outdoors until the sun sets, the source said.

The financial burden they impose on their adult children who also struggle to make ends meet has led to family crises, where it is the children who are asking their aging parents to commit suicide, said another source in North Hamgyong Province.


The notion of killing themselves is not unfamiliar to elderly North Koreans, particularly war veterans who once devoted their lives to the Workers' Party and sacrificing for North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.

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Their devotion has not paid off, as neither the state nor their children are tending to their needs, according to the report.

Adult children complain chiefly about the cost of medicine and their parents' inability to participate in a market economy.

Out of frustration, they hang a scroll in their parents' bedrooms that reads, "Spirit of Self-Destruction" or suicide.

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Young people placing pressure on the elderly to kill themselves is becoming a trend, the source said.

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