This article attempts to examine how elderly suicide is viewed in Korean novels, against the
background that suicide rates are higher among older people in Korean society. Firstly, elderly
suicide is caused by loneliness and alienation in some novels. Writers foreground some
problems that people, especially elderly people, need to address. For example, not only people
with negative personality traits but also people with positive personality traits can commit
suicide when they cannot overcome disappointing words from their children; suicide is a
greedy act if it is committed because of loneliness and alienation; elderly people need to
humbly accept their lives, even though loneliness and alienation are unavoidable. Secondly,
Korean novels make it clear that elderly suicide is closely related to Korean modern history.
Old people experienced psychological trauma as they underwent the Korean War in the 1950s,
the military dictatorship in the 1980s and the IMF crisis in the 1990s. When obsessed with a
sense of guilt, older people sometimes commit suicide in order to atone for their wrongdoings.
Thirdly, elderly suicide is depicted in positive terms in a novel, while suicide is usually
considered to be a negative act. An elderly couple with physical illness commits suicide out of
love for each other in hopes of reincarnation. This suicide is viewed as resolving the conflict
between their daughter and her husband. In examining perspectives on elderly suicide as
depicted in Korean novels, this article sheds light on reasons why some elderly people live
unsound lives and suggests some solutions.
Prof. Dr Mun Yoeng Sik is
participating in the research
project, ‘Narrative Pastoral
Counseling’, directed by Prof.
Dr Julian Müller, Centre for
the Advancement of
Scholarship, University of