Monday, March 02, 2009

More on subway suicides

In June of 2007, I wrote about suicides in subway stations. A post by Mark at Hub of Sparkle about the new sliding doors in subway stations led me to find new information. A 2004 AP article about Seoul subway suicides and the measures the city was taking (playing soft music) can be found here, while a September 2008 Korea Times article looks at the effects of the suicides on subway train drivers.
Yoo Chung-sik] is still suffering from the aftermath of a tragic experience of running over a man. In February 2005, an old man was slowly falling off the platform at Gangbyeon Station on the Subway Line 2. "The moment I saw him fall, I applied the brake and managed to pull up the train. But it was too late. I ran him over with a speed of 30 km/h and the man was stuck between the first and second wheel.''

Fortunately, the man survived, but left Yoo with traumatic memories. "I cannot shake off the horrible moment. Right after the accident, I got out of the train but I couldn't look at the victim,'' he said.

Since then, Yoo has not been able to stand behind the wheels again. He now works as an office worker for Seoul Metro. "I don't think I will be able to drive a train again. I couldn't put up with the tension whenever my train approaches a platform.''

Yoo is rather okay compared to other colleagues who experienced passengers' suicide attempts. Some drivers need to have psychiatric treatment for several months, according to the subway company.
Be sure to read the rest. A scientific study looking at the effects of suicides on drivers can be found here. As Reuters tells us, after a subway driver died in December 2007 (suffering from diarrhea, he leaned out of the window and fell onto the tracks, where he was hit by another train), the city installed portable toilets in the subway train's driver's cab (the article has a photo). Korea Beat translated an article about subway drivers here.

Regarding sliding doors, there was a woman who died when she became trapped between the subway and sliding doors last October at Hwagok Station, or so this article tells us. One factor was apparently that the doors were not yet finished. Actually, according to a student I taught at the time, it was a suicide. The reason he would know is that he is a station engineer, repairing systems in 12 stations (Omokyo - Banghwa on Line 5), and part of that job includes reviewing CCTV footage when suicides occur - not an enviable job. He told me more than 20 suicides had occurred within those 12 stations (I’m not sure of the time frame), including this one at Gaehwasan Station last August, where a divorced mother jumped in front of a train with her 5 year old daughter and 11 year old son. Only the son survived. Oddly enough (well, not really, Banghwa is kind of like a small town sometimes), another student, a high-school girl, mentioned that her friend lived in the same building as the woman's mother in law, and that the suicide occurred after she failed to borrow money from the mother in law.

It just goes to show that the walls are not just preventing suicides (in subway stations), and providing new advertising space (the wall with the sliding doors in Yeongdeungpo Gucheong station was covered with ads by one company when it first appeared a few years ago), but are also sparing not just drivers, but also other subway workers (and passengers) from the trauma of witnessing such horrible incidents.

1 comment:

kushibo said...

Mark at Hub of Sparkle makes a valid point that if someone wants to off themselves, they'll find a way. But there are a lot of people who are thinking seriously about offing themselves but are not fully committed.

Subway platforms have provided an oh-so-convenient way to flirt with death until one is ready to take the plunge. I'm not so sure that other many venues offer such a perfect way to kill oneself. An innate fear of heights makes even the suicidal think twice, thrice, or a thousand times about jumping off a tall building.

Moreover, the doors are also there to prevent accidental deaths: drunk people who slip, people who are unintentionally pushed by a crowd and lose their footing. I seem to recall that they accelerated the schedule of installation on line #4 because of a clinically insane homeless person pushing a woman to her death (at Hoehyǒn Station?). In other words, suicides are only part of the picture.

I'm familiar with the suicides in Korean and Japanese public transport, but I was very surprised when I was in London to have been detoured twice in ten days when suicidal jumpers were found on the tracks on the lines we needed to take to get home.

One Londoner told me that the public inconvenience ups the preference of suicidal people for that type of way to go out, though he was a bit of a cynical person.

At least they're not yet doing "suicide by cop," like in California. The trauma the cops experience from that reminds me of the trauma the subway drivers experience.

Good post, Matt.