PhD Candidate Timothy Kang on "Suicide in South Korea"

November 28, 2019 by Susha Guan

Ph.D. Timonthy Kang recently published an article in the Journal for Social Thought, entitled "Suicide in South Korea: Revisiting Durkheim's Suicide." The article approaches suicide trends and patterns through a Durkheimian lens and draws on Ben Park's (2012) "cohort theory of collective cultural ambivalence" to examine suicide in Korea. The article also explores current research on suicide in Korea and uses data from the World Values Survey (2014). With consideration to Park's attention to anomie, the author argues that egoism and social integration are different from social regulation and that this distinction is important for understanding the increasing rates of suicide in South Korea.

Timothy Kang is currently in the process of obtaining his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Toronto. His research interests are primarily within socio-legal studies focusing on the intersections between crime, gender, and age.

The full text of the article can be accessed through the Journal for Social Thought here. We have included the citation and abstract below.

Kang, Timothy. 2017. Suicide in South Korea: Revisiting Durkheim’s Suicide. Journal for Social Thought, 2(1): 3-14.

The suicide rate in South Korea has been steadily increasing for the past twenty years and has become a major societal issue. Accordingly, the phenomenon has drawn the attention of researchers from many different perspectives that have looked to a variety of causes. Efforts to understand the trends from a sociological perspective, however, are scarce. One notable exception is Ben Park’s (2012) cohort theory of “collective cultural ambivalence”. Drawing from Durkheim’s concept of anomie, Park argues that in Korea the simultaneous and competing existence of traditional Confucianism and Western Individualism is causing pathological cultural ambivalence, a state of anomie, and increasing rates of suicide. The theory of cultural ambivalence, however, conflates Durkheim’s conceptual distinctions between social regulation/integration and anomic/egoistic suicides. By revisiting the original formulations in Suicide, this essay offers a Durkheimian interpretation and explanation for suicide trends and patterns by drawing from Park’s cohort theory of cultural ambivalence, examining current research on suicide in Korea, and using data from the fifth wave of the World Values Survey (2014). Along with Park’s emphasis on anomie, I argue that egoism and social integration are important considerations distinct from social regulation for understanding the increasing rates of suicide in South Korea


Read the full article here.