03 August 2006

Koreatown culture of death

I've just been alerted to the following article - in Korean only - which shows the epidemic of suicides in Los Angeles's massive Korean community.

According to the article, 7.4% of all deaths in Los Angeles County were suicides. For Asian-Americans in general, it was 13.4%. For the Korean community, it was 25.6% in 2004 and 22.4% in 2005. At Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, staffers report an average of five Korean-American suicide attempts per month while reporting virtually none for whites or Hispanics. They also blame the pervasiveness of the fundamentalist Christianity in the community for the high suicide rates. The article finally goes back to the horrific family murder-suicides that rocked Koreatown earlier this year.

The part about the Christian influence on the community must be noted. In Koreatown, churches control everything - from marriage arrangements to social meetings to business promotions - even more so than in the Deep South. (And certainly far more so than back in both Koreas.) Anyone who disagrees with the teachings of the churches, including atheists and LGBTs, has absolutely no support in the community. And I would not be surprised if some of these "suicides" were actually forced or induced by unsupportive family members, much like in Turkey, where "honor killings" have morphed into "forced suicides" in an attempt to clean up the nation''s human rights record in preparation for joining the European Union.

Religion is supposed to save, but unfortunately, it's killing. And I don't have to travel to faraway Muslim countries to see the proof - it's right here, in Los Angeles's ultra-religious Koreatown. The Korean-American community is well advised to look in the mirror, before lecturing the rest of the society on moral matters; I won't take moral lectures from anyone who believes in, say, honor killings. For a community whose home country builds advanced cell phones and cars, I would expect much higher standards of civility than this barbaric culture of death. And Sam Brownback and the Republican Party ought to be ashamed of themselves for calling this community their support base.

No wonder Los Angeles isn't quite San Francisco.

The Korea Times Los Angeles (in Korean)