Complaints soar after release of info on sanitary pads

#women_health #chemical #safety #menstrual_care_product

Chemical safety problem around various products issued in Korea, starting from humidifier sterilizer, sanitary pads, pesticide-containing egg, etc. Is this just society being chemical-phobic and untrustful or is it because exposure to unregulated toxic chemicals included in everyday supplies rightfuly being exposed?

 

 


Complaints about unexpected side effects from using sanitary pads have spiked since mid-August when information regarding the materials used in these products were released, according to the Food and Drug Safety Ministry on Wednesday.

Since Aug. 21, a total of 74 complaints have been lodged with the Korea Institute of Drug Safety and Risk Management concerning the use of menstrual care products. There were no complaints regarding menstrual care products reported before Aug. 20.

The complaints mostly focused on the use of Lilian pads, which were named as one of the brands of products containing toxins. Side effects that were reported included changes in menstrual cycles and volume.

Sanitary pads at a discount retailer in Seoul (Yonhap)

The complaints were sent by the Food and Drug Safety Ministry to a committee on sanitary pad safety, made up of independent experts for further study. The committee will be responsible for leading tests on existing products in the market and creating new sets of standards for specific toxins that are found in sanitary products.

Meanwhile, a local women’s rights group announced last month that it had collected complaints from over 3,000 women over three days last month after the safety study was made public.

Additional information released by the Food and Drug Safety Ministry showed that all of the top brands of sanitary pads being sold in Korea contained toxic chemicals.

These types of chemicals have not yet been scientifically linked to health risks for women, but the news has led to more consumers turning to organic cotton products or buying menstrual cups directly from overseas sellers.

Sales of cotton pads in the two weeks following initial news reports about Lilian pads rose 385 percent on-year at discount retailer E-mart. Sales of menstrual cups to Korean consumers from health products website Vitatra rose 470 percent compared to the previous week, in the week following the reports. Menstrual cups have not yet been certified for sale in Korea.

“This case demonstrates how crucial it is for consumers to have the right information,” said Park Myung-hee, who heads the consumer rights group Korea Consumer’s Network.

“Women could not come forward before because they did not know that it was possible that these products contained toxins, but that did not mean there was no risk. Rather than taking action only on products that create public outcry, safety agencies need to make more of an effort to identify risks ahead of time and engage with the public.”

By Won Ho-jung (hjwon@heraldcorp.com)

Original article from: http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20170906000823&ACE_SEARCH=1

[Big Data on Suicide Unveiled for the First Time] People at Risk of Suicide Lived in Poor Housing Conditions (kyung-hyang)

#Suicide #SDH  #housing #Korea #Public_View

“…the latest research confirmed that housing environment had a significant impact on suicides. Regardless of the geographical location, there were many people at risk of suicide people who had contemplated suicide among those paying a monthly rent for houses smaller than 66m2.”

 

 

South Korea’s suicide rate is among the highest in the world. Since 2003, more than 10,000 people took their own lives every year, granting South Korea with the disgraceful title of the number one country in suicides among the member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Last year, 28.7 people per every 100,000 of the population committed suicide, widening the gap with second place Japan (18.7).

It now seems possible to identify areas where people at risk of suicide mostly reside using numbers, such as the population, geographical information and past suicide statistics. If we concentrate on areas at high risk based on this data, we may be able to prevent a considerable number of suicides.

On September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, Public View, a nonprofit research network, released a 2017-2018 map to prevent and respond to people at risk of suicide. This map categorized seventeen metropolitan cities and provinces, 252 si, gun and gus, and 3,491 eup, myeon, and dongs into five levels (A-E), according to the percentage of people at risk of suicide. The area with the highest risk was labeled A and among the metropolitan cities and provinces, the Seoul metropolitan area including Seoul, Gyeonggi-do, and Incheon fit in this category. The proportion of people at risk of suicide decreased outside large cities, but there was a big difference among eup, myeon and dong within the provinces and larger cities.

After surveying 4,500 people nationwide and analyzing the distribution of actual suicide victims by region over the past decade, the latest research confirmed that housing environment had a significant impact on suicides. Regardless of the geographical location, there were many people at risk of suicide people who had contemplated suicide among those paying a monthly rent for houses smaller than 66m2. This means that socio-economic factors, as well as psychological problems like depression, stress, and anger are the main cause of suicide.

In the northern part of Seoul, there were many people in their twenties and thirties who were at high risk, while below the Hangang River, people aged 35-44 were the main people at risk. In Gangwon-do, Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do and Gyeonggi-do, people in their forties and fifties were at high risk while in Jeju-do, people in their forties and sixties were at high risk of suicide.

Experts point out that to reduce the number of suicides, the government needs to analyze the characteristics and distribution of people at risk and link this to welfare and housing policies. In Japan, stronger responses in connection with the local community have been effective in reducing the suicide rate by 30% over ten years. Choi Jeong-muk, the deputy director of the Local Government Data Research Institute, a member of Public View, which organized the latest research, said, “We were able to identify the status of areas where more people at high risk of suicide lived in with the geographical data. We should be able to effectively increase the infrastructure necessary to respond to and prevent suicide.”

원문보기:
http://english.khan.co.kr/khan_art_view.html?artid=201709111739357&code=710100#csidxfd4c0dacb86ec93aced2853d4e81933 

More people in Seoul living in “residentially vulnerable” conditions (hankyoreh)

#Social_determinant_of_health #Housing #Seoul #vulnerable_accomodation_rising #youth_and_eldery #inequality

While more people being pushed into residentially vulnerable conditions, it is known that people living in these “miscellaneous” accommodations experience higher unmet medical need which leads to lower quality of life and subjective status, and also more prevalence of suicide.


A gosiwon (a small room in a cramped boarding house)

Report finds that housing situation in the capital is particularly poor for youth and the elderly

Last year, more than 70,000 households in Seoul fell into the category of the “residentially vulnerable,” which means they are living in cramped boarding houses called “gosiwon,” public bathhouses, or on the streets, new government figures show.

Figures from a census by Statistics Korea released on Sept. 10 show that 209,486 households were living in non-traditional housing last year, out of a total of 3,784,705 households living in Seoul. Non-traditional housing includes office-apartment combinations called “officetels” (129,152 households), hospitality establishments including hotels and motels (2,219), dormitories and other special social facilities (3,999) and shacks and greenhouses (1,976).

According to the census, 72,140 of the households living in non-traditional housing were staying in “miscellaneous” accommodations. Most of these people are moving between gosiwon and public bathhouses or are staying in their self-owned restaurants. The number of households whose accommodations were classified as “miscellaneous” was recorded as 69,870 in the 2015 population survey, representing an increase of 2,270 households over the past year.

The percentage of residentially vulnerable households actually increased from the previous year. The total number of households living in Seoul last year grew by just over 200 from the previous year (3,784,490), which means that the increase in the number of the residentially vulnerable was relatively large. The number of Seoul households living in traditional housing (a category including houses and apartments) last year was 3,575,219, which was actually down from the year before (3,590,265).The increase in the number of residentially vulnerable households living in Seoul last year appears to have been due to population aging and to the rise in the number of people living alone. The largest age group among households in the miscellaneous category was 15 to 19 years old (35.7%), followed by 20 to 24 years old (16.7%) and 60 to 64 years old (11.4%). This implies that the housing environment is particularly poor for the youth and the elderly.

Another factor responsible for the increasing number of households in miscellaneous housing is the fact that the economic downturn has created more small business owners. Business owners who live in their workplace without having a house of their own are also included in the “miscellaneous” category.

“The statistics for the miscellaneous housing category can’t be subdivided any further, but our understanding is that a considerable number of these households are small business owners who live in their place of business,” said an official from Statistics Korea.

 

By Noh Hyun-woong, staff reporter

original article from: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/810532.html

Widow sues National Pension Service, Suwon City over husband’s death (Hankyoreh)

#conditional_beneficiary’s_death #unrealistic_working_capacity_assessment #basic_livelihood_benefit #Korea

 

“It was the country that killed him.”

“A conditional beneficiary cannot receive part or any of livelihood benefits unless he or she fulfills certain conditions for rehabilitation, such as obtaining employment.”

“It is the first lawsuit holding the state accountable for the death of a social welfare beneficiary.”

 


Kwak Hye-sook, the widow of Choi In-ki, holds a photo of her deceased husband while speaking at the MINBYUN office in the Seocho neighborhood of Seoul on Aug. 30. (Ko Han-sol, staff reporter)

Choi In-ki had lost his government assistance despite having a serious heart condition, in real-life Korean version of “I, Daniel Blake”

Kwak Hye-sook held up a picture of her husband. Choi In-gi, who died three years ago at the age of 60, was shown lying in critical care with several different hoses attached to him. Kwak let out a deep sigh as her tears began to flow.

“I photographed everything. Is someone in this state a human? He wasn’t a human. It was the country that killed him.”

Choi In-ki was an express city bus driver. After an aortic aneurysm diagnosis in 2005, he underwent two major operations in 2008 to have the blood vessels around his heart replaced with artificial ones. An aortic aneurysm is a serious condition in which blood vessels could fatally swell and burst at any moment. Left unable to work, Choi was selected as a basic livelihood benefit recipient and received support for living and hospital expenses.

 

But in 2013, the National Pension Service (NPS), which conducts assessments on the ability to work, concluded that Choi was capable of working. That October, Bundang Seoul National University Hospital diagnosed him as corresponding to stages 3–4 in a four-stage assessment of working capabilities – but NPS re-rated him as a 1, indicating the most favorable state. The city of Suwon, where Choi lived, accepted the conclusion and declared him a “conditional beneficiary.”

A conditional beneficiary cannot receive part or any of livelihood benefits unless he or she fulfills certain conditions for rehabilitation, such as obtaining employment. In June 2014, Choi was finally forced to find work as part of the cleanup crew at an apartment complex. Three months later, he collapsed in an underground parking garage; two months after that, he passed away.

On Aug. 28, the third anniversary of Choi’s death, his widow Kwak joined the MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society Public Interest Human Rights Legal Defense Center in filing suit against NPS and the city of Suwon.

Kwak Hye-sook (second from right) holds a press conference with MINBYUN representatives at a press conference in the group’s office on Aug. 30 to discuss her husband’s death. The case has drawn parallels to the film, “I, Daniel Blake.” (Ko Han-sol, staff reporter)

During an Aug. 30 press conference at MINBYUN’s office in Seoul’s Seocho neighborhood, the group referred to Choi’s death as “the result of unrealistic working capability assessments.” MINBYUN said it was the first lawsuit holding the state accountable for the death of a social welfare beneficiary.

Kwak and the group described Choi’s death as a Korean version of I, Daniel Blake, a film by director Ken Loach about a man who is forced to find work to meet conditions for benefit payment like Choi. In the film, the character dies while his case is being reheard by a public institution.

 

By Ko Han-sol, staff reporter

Original article from: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/809123.html

Government preparing bill to prevent serious industrial accidents (Kyunghyang)

In the Case of a Fatal Industrial Accident, the Main Contractor Will Also Be Subject to Up to 7 Years in Prison and 100 Mn Won in Fines


#industrial_hazard #bill_responding_to_”outsourcing_of_danger” #should_watch_over #FINALLY

In the future, when a major industrial accident occurs due to a failure to follow safety measures, the main contractor, as well as the subcontractor, will be subject to a maximum of 7 years in prison or a fine of up to 100 million won. A new bill will also have the main contractor, which caused the serious industrial accident, receive disadvantages when bidding for construction contracts, and protect emotional laborers such as the employees working at call centers from industrial accidents.

On August 17, the government accepted the “Measures to Prevent Serious Industrial Accidents” including these details at a meeting to review and adjust current state tasks chaired by Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon. Major industrial accidents were defined as work sites where a fatal accident occurred or accidents where two or more people suffered injuries requiring more than three months of treatment and where more than ten people were simultaneously injured. The Ministry of Employment and Labor will draw up amendments to the Occupational Safety and Health Act to include these details and submit the bill to the National Assembly next March. The government plans to enforce the revised bill in the second half of next year.

The main contractor’s responsibility and punishment for industrial accidents will be strengthened to prevent the “outsourcing” of danger. In the past, the main contractor was subject to up to a year in prison or a fine of less than 10 million won for not adhering to safety measures when a major industrial accident occurred, but punishment will be strengthened, and the main contractor will now be subject to the same punishment as the subcontractors. Until now the main contractor was only responsible for the operations carried out in sites designated as “dangerous,” but now the contractors will be responsible for industrial accidents that occur in all sites. The latest government measure will have the main contractor personally handle operations that deal with particularly high levels of toxicity or danger, such as refining mercury, handling of heavy metals, and plating. As for tower cranes and railway sites, where a series of major accidents had occurred recently, the government plans to draw up guidelines to strengthen inspection standards and to adjust train hours during operations.
The government will also draw up a bill to protect workers engaging in emotional labor, such as the staff at call centers, from industrial hazards. In addition, the government will also make it mandatory for businesses to provide protective gear and safety education for workers in special forms, such as the workers in motorcycle parcel delivery or food delivery. Businesses that fail to follow such regulations will be punished with up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won.

Minister of Employment and Labor Kim Young-joo said, “We will soon establish a task force on innovative safety policies with labor and management and provide specific measures to prevent industrial hazards.”

Original Article from:
http://english.khan.co.kr/khan_art_view.html?artid=201708181832407&code=710100#csidxee492cbddb3e6358b4e13d6b53386bf 

South Korean egg scandal-Activists call for end to factory farming (Korea Herald)

#egg_scandal #pesticide-tainted_egg_crisis #industrial_livestock_industry #Animal_right

 

 

Animal rights groups on Monday called for measures to reform the livestock industry, saying that factory farming is behind the egg contamination scandal.

The pesticide-tainted egg crisis is only a prelude to bigger threats to the food safety and public health unless the practice of cramming chickens into battery cages to maximize profits is stopped, they said.

“It is a consequence of industrialized livestock production and it poses a threat to our food security,” said Jeon Jin-kyung, executive director at Korea Animal Rights Advocates, during a press briefing.

President Moon Jae-in promised to overhaul the industrial livestock production, but the question is how he will specifically do so,” she said, criticizing the past governments’ lukewarm efforts to tackle the “fundamental” problem.

 

The calls come amid growing fears over the distribution of eggs contaminated with insecticides, which experts say could harm human kidneys and liver if consumed in large quantities.

So far, the 52 poultry farms have been revealed to have sold eggs tainted with high levels of insecticides.

The farms had used eight kinds of pesticides including fipronil and flufenoxuron, which are used to kill fleas, lice and ticks on animals, according to the government’s inspection.

About 1370 farms, or 94 percent of the poultry farms in the country, use battery cages that severely restrict animals’ movements and pose hygiene issues, according to government data. The floor area of a cage for each bird is about the size of a sheet of A4 paper.

South Korea is not alone. Eggs containing insecticide fipronil were found in the food chain in 16 European countries and Hong Kong in August, according to the European Commission.

The animal rights activists highlighted that the egg scare could have been prevented if chickens had been able to freely move around and remove ticks by cleaning themselves with sand and soil.

“As five to six chickens are locked in a battery cage, their immune system weakens and diseases spread in no time. As there are no ways to get rid of ticks, farmers cannot help but spray insecticides. In such an environment, the tainted egg crisis and the outbreak of bird flu is just a natural consequence,” activists said.

Intensive farming is also to blame for the outbreak and spread of the bird flu virus, they said.

Until April, nearly 40 million poultry were culled due to bird flu, which was first reported in November last year. When bird flu infects a single bird on a chicken farm, the whole population is destroyed to stop the spread.

The government said it would tighten regulations on the use of insecticides and ensure codes are printed on eggshells to inform consumers of when and who produced the eggs. In the long term, it will expand a system to certify eco-friendly farms with high animal welfare standards, it said.

But animal welfare groups said it is not possible under the current system that lacks a comprehensive animal welfare policy and government body in charge of it.

“To push for the reforms, a team currently in charge of animal welfare under the Agriculture Ministry should be expanded so that it can effectively improve animal welfare standards in the face of the livestock industry’s pursuit of their own interests,” they said.

The government has received criticism for its poor response to the egg contamination scare — including its failure to carry out a thorough inspection and lack of coordination among relevant government bodies.

President Moon Jae-in apologized Monday over the scandal, vowing measures to improve the livestock farming environment.

“In the wake of this case, we have to examine the entire livestock industry’s safety control system and promptly craft measures that can be trusted by citizens,” Moon said at a Cabinet meeting..

 

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)

 

Original article from: http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20170821000724&ACE_SEARCH=1

The Continuing Death of Migrant Workers Requires Human Rights Measures (Kyunghyang)

“There are a million migrant workers in Korea, but the continuing human rights violations and labor exploitation is an international disgrace and a shameful portrait of South Korean society. ”

 

#migrant_workers #labor_exploitation #human_right_violation #discrimination #pig_farm_worker’s_death


After a series of deaths of migrant workers who worked cleaning the septic tank of a rural pig farm, people are raising their voices calling for the government to protect the rights of laborers and prevent industrial accidents. Labor and social NGOs such as the Migrants’ Trade Union held a press conference in front of the government office in Seoul on June 4 and announced, “Every year, an average of 2.8 migrant workers died after suffocating in the septic tanks, but this year, four have already died.” There are a million migrant workers in Korea, but the continuing human rights violations and labor exploitation is an international disgrace and a shameful portrait of South Korean society.

The reliance on foreign labor in South Korea’s agricultural and livestock sector as well as the so-called “3D” manufacturing industry concerning dirty, difficult and dangerous tasks is growing. Nevertheless, the migrant workers working in the agricultural and livestock sector continue to suffer human rights violations, such as physical and verbal abuse, and they are forced to endure harsh working conditions. The death of four migrant workers at a pig farm last month is also connected to such background. On May 12, two Nepalese workers suffocated and died while cleaning a septic tank at a pig farm in Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do. The suction machine for the excrements broke down and the workers manually cleaned the tank without any safety equipment such as masks, eventually dying from the toxic gas. Also on May 27, a Chinese worker in his sixties and a Thai worker in his thirties also lost consciousness while cleaning the excrements at a pig farm in Buknae-myeon, Yeoju-si, Gyeonggi-do. They were moved to a hospital, but later died.

Migrant workers working in the rural areas are “excluded” from provisions pertaining to working hours and holidays according to Article 63 of the Labor Standards Act. They cannot properly receive overdue wages as well as leaves and overtime pay. This is why people are calling migrant workers the modern-day serf, and joke that their workdays are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Friday, and Friday. In particular, the Act on the Employment, Etc. of Foreign Workers (Employment Permit System) restricts the migrant workers’ freedom of occupation, because it limits the number of times and the time to change work places. In particular, workers who entered the country with a work visa in the agriculture and livestock sector are banned from finding employment in the manufacturing and service industries, which have relatively more jobs.

The government should immediately revise legislation that work against labor and human rights, such as the Employment Permit System, and concentrate on protecting the basic rights and labor rights of the migrant workers. Otherwise, South Korea will not be able to escape from the stigma as a “labor hell” and as “a country that exploits labor,” instead of gaining the reputation as a “land of opportunity.”

Article from: http://english.khan.co.kr/khan_art_view.html?artid=201706052034107&code=790101#csidx65185514af5b1faa4bc258cdc42a492

 

 

Court with first recognition of multiple sclerosis caused at Samsung factory (hankyoreh)

#work_related_disease #Samsung #semi-conductor_plant #multiple_sclerosis #Banollim

 

“Considering that Kim acquired the disease earlier than the average age of incidence (38.3 years) and that four people have come down with the disease on the job at Samsung Electronics, the work environment probably triggered the disease or at least caused it to develop faster than normal,”

 

Samsung’s semiconductor factory in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province

Former semiconductor worker likely had rare disease caused by exposure to solvents at factory

A South Korean court has recognized a former worker at Samsung Electronics’ semiconductor factory who is suffering from the rare disease of multiple sclerosis as having a work-related condition, the first time that multiple sclerosis has been recognized as a work-related condition on the semiconductor production line at Samsung Electronics.

“Even in the case of rare diseases whose causes have not been completely determined, when the elements mentioned in current medical research as causing or aggravating the disease are present in the work environment or in the work process, the disease should be recognized as being work-related,” the court said.On May 28, Hon. Kim Yong-seok, presiding judge in the second administrative division of the Seoul High Court, overruled the lower court and sided with the plaintiff, Kim So-jeong (33, not her real name), who contracted multiple sclerosis after working for two years at Samsung’s semiconductor factory in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province. Kim had asked the court to force the Korea Workers’ Compensation and Welfare Service (KCOMWEL) to reverse its decision not to cover Kim’s medical expenses.

Kim got a job at Samsung straight out of high school in 2003 but quit after just two years. That was when she started experiencing symptoms such as weight loss, irregular urination, loss of vision, facial paralysis and reduced sensation, and three years after leaving Samsung, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She asked KCOMWEL to cover the cost of her treatment, but the agency refused her request, leading her to file a lawsuit in 2013.

Multiple sclerosis is an extremely rare disease, only occurring in 3.5 out of 100,000 people (and 1.4 out of 100,000 people in their twenties) in South Korea, and the exact cause of the disease has not been determined. For these reasons, KCOMWEL argued, it is not a work-related disease.But the court concluded that Kim’s multiple sclerosis was work-related because three of the factors thought to cause the disease applied to Kim: inadequate exposure to sunlight, exposure to organic solvents and heavy metals, and working in shifts.

“Considering that Kim acquired the disease earlier than the average age of incidence (38.3 years) and that four people have come down with the disease on the job at Samsung Electronics, the work environment probably triggered the disease or at least caused it to develop faster than normal,” the court said.In connection with exposure to organic solvents, the court also quoted the results of a 2013 assessment of health and safety at the Giheung plant by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA), which found that the plant did not have any equipment to blow harmful gases outside the building and that not enough was being done to prevent workers from being exposed to high concentrations of harmful materials in a short period of time. “Considering that Samsung Electronics did not submit the documents that were necessary for assessing its system for managing the exposure to harmful materials on the grounds that this was a business secret, there seem to have been more problems than the ones that were identified,” the court said, a remark that implicitly criticizes Samsung Electronics’ reluctance to submit the documents in question.“The Korea Workers‘ Compensation and Welfare Service must not prolong the suffering of the victim by unfairly appealing this decision,” said Banollim, a watchdog group advocating the health of semiconductor plant workers, in a statement released on May 28. Banollim represented Kim in the case.

 

Article from: http://bit.ly/2slHcxL

Suicide rate polarizing according to age and region (hankyoreh)

 Suicide  more common among elderly in fading rural communities

 


 

2013 suicide rate by municipality

South Korea has OECD’s highest rate, and suicides more common among elderly in fading rural communities

The South Korean suicide rate, which consistently ranks as one of the world’s highest, also shows signs of serious polarization according to age group and region, statistics indicate.An

Oct. 21 analysis of cause of death data for 2005 to 2013 from Statistics Korea showed the suicide rate among South Koreans aged 80 and older to be anywhere from five to seven times higher than the rate for those aged 20 and 29 at points during the nine-year period.

Figures showing age-standardized rates for regions also showed some farming communities to have rates as much as five times higher than in large cities. Age-standardized rates correct for differing suicide rates by age group and thus is not affected by age distribution, including the overall percentage of senior citizens in the population.

According to the data, suicide rates rose with age. Between 2005 and 2012, the rate in the 80-and-older population stood at over 100 suicides per 100,000 people, falling to 94.7 only last year. The rate for those aged 70 to 79 also stood between 70 and 84 for the eight-year period before falling to 66.9 in 2013.

The suicide rate among South Korea’s senior citizens was calculated at nearly four times the average for OECD member countries. For those aged 20 to 29, the rate consistently ranged between 18 to 25 per 100,000. Among those aged 30 to 39, it showed a steady increase from 21.8 in 2005 to 28.4 in 2013.

Regional disparities were equally severe. Rates were consistently high for the provinces of Gangwon, South Chungcheong, and North Chungcheong, with respective 2013 age-standardized suicide rates of 32, 30.3, and 29.3 per 100,000 people. The rates for Seoul (22.6) and Ulsan (23.6) were roughly 10 suicides per 100,000 people lower.

An even sharper picture emerged in terms of differences between urban and rural communities. By the standard of simple average age-standardized suicide rate for 2005–2013, the top ten ranking municipalities had rates averaging 40.9 per 100,000 residents. For the bottom ten, the average was just 17.9.

Suicide rate by age group 2005-2013

By nine-year average, the top ten municipalities were, in order, Jeongseon and Yeongwol counties in Gangwon; Cheongyang County, South Chungcheong Province; Yangyang County, Gangwon Province; Goesan County, North Chungcheong Province, Hongcheon County, Gangwon Province; Taean County, South Chungcheong Province, Uiseong County, North Gyeongsang Province; Cheorwon County, Gangwon Province; and Seosan County, South Chungcheong Province. With the exception of Seosan, all of the communities have declining populations, with many senior residents who have had to keep working.

The analysis also found the South Korean suicide rate dropping when the birth rate or growth rate were high, and rising when the divorce rate or income inequality (Gini coefficient) increased. The trend was confirmed by a National Assembly Budget Office analysis of correlations between the suicide rate and various socioeconomic factors between 1990 and 2012. It indicates that deepening social inequality and changing of traditional family structures have led to more suicides.

 

Original Article : http://bit.ly/2slGq3S

Korea should get real on HIV (JoongAng Daily)

“Put simply, the Korean government’s view and treatment of people living with HIV is outdated and contrary to internationally recognized best practices, and needs to change now.”


The Korean government considers people living with HIV morally unfit to teach English and medically unfit to receive government scholarships to study at Korean universities. But the UN and governments around the world have long recognized that such policies are unjustified on any sort of health or human rights grounds. In such an economically and scientifically advanced country, this is an astonishing reminder that in some respects Korea still needs to catch up with the rest of the world.

Today, foreign English teachers in Korea must pass periodic HIV tests to keep their positions, and foreign graduate students may be disqualified from exchange programs and have government scholarships revoked if they are found to be HIV-positive. International human rights condemnation has not altered these facts.

In 2015, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination decided that Korea’s HIV testing requirements for foreign English teachers could not be justified on public health grounds and qualified as racial discrimination as most ethnic Koreans were not subjected to the same requirement. In late 2016, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea issued two decisions recommending an end to HIV restrictions on foreign English teachers and government-invited foreign graduate school scholarship recipients.

Former President Park Geun-hye and her government ignored all three determinations. However, the May 9 election for a new President offers an opportunity for a new president and government to revisit this issue.

Sadly, shortcomings in public education on HIV/AIDS remain a problem. As a result, many Koreans believe HIV to be far more infectious and transmissible than it really is and see a health threat that in practice does not exist. Contrary to the views of far too many in Korea, HIV cannot be spread through casual contact and modern medications can reduce the likelihood of transmission nearly to zero. Indeed, local health activists report that there are no known cases in Korea of a foreign teacher infecting a student with HIV.

As the Human Rights Commission recognized in its decisions, imposing HIV travel restrictions does not yield any public health benefit to Koreans. Advances in HIV treatment have vastly improved both quality of life and survival for people living with the disease, to the point that it can now be successfully managed with a daily pill. A recent study found that some people living with HIV in the United States “now have life expectancies equal to or even higher than the U.S. general population.”

Work and study restrictions on foreigners living with HIV may, in fact, have negative public health repercussions. By explicitly linking HIV to foreigners, these restrictions play a role in frustrating domestic prevention measures by suggesting that HIV is simply a foreign problem that can be addressed through border control.

By strengthening the stigma against HIV, the government’s restrictions can also discourage HIV-positive Koreans from seeking treatment and contribute to fear of prejudice that causes many people to choose not to get tested for HIV — which increases the disease’s potential for harm. The stigma in Korea is so pervasive that people living with HIV are reportedly 10 times more likely to commit suicide than Koreans without HIV.

The World Health Organization announced that there was no justification for HIV-based travel restrictions in 1987, and in 2006 the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNAIDS stated that the practice is “discriminatory and cannot be justified by public health concerns.” In 2012, UNAIDS and the Global Business Coalition on Health presented a pledge by the CEOs of 24 multinational companies opposing HIV travel restrictions.

Fewer and fewer countries maintain travel restrictions on people living with HIV. The U.S. did away with its travel ban in 2010, the same year the Korean government itself recognized restrictions as a form of discrimination. Korea went on to claim at the 2012 International AIDS Conference that it had rescinded all HIV-related travel restrictions on foreigners — even as it continued to require foreigners seeking work visas to undergo health checks that included HIV testing.

Put simply, the Korean government’s view and treatment of people living with HIV is outdated and contrary to internationally recognized best practices, and needs to change now. Preventing people living with HIV from studying or teaching in Korea may fuel xenophobia, does not protect Koreans from HIV, isolates and marginalizes people living with HIV, and perpetuates dangerous popular misconceptions about the realities of the condition. Korean officials should instead recognize that HIV is a global health problem to be addressed through treatment, prevention and education.

Korea prides itself on its technological leadership, and the issues in this presidential election center on modernizing political and business relationships. Instead of banning and shaming people living with HIV, Korea should promote public education about HIV transmission and treatment, improve access to HIV treatment, and combat the damaging myth that a HIV diagnosis represents a moral failure. And it should stop requiring HIV testing for foreign students and teachers.

*The author is the John Gardner Fellow for Health and Human Rights at Human Rights Watch.

Courtney Tran

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