Between the roar of incoming trains, the soothing strains of Beethoven’s Fur Elise or Ben E. King’s Stand By Me float across the platforms of Seoul’s labyrinthian subway network. The music fades and a preacher-like male voice intones: “Dear passengers, let’s think again about the parents and sisters and brothers we love and the preciousness of our life.”
Seoul’s subway authorities hope the music and those exhortations will help relieve the stress of harried Seoul citizens and fight a growing social problem: people who leap to their deaths in front of subway trains. Driven by debt, lost love, terminal disease and other miseries, 95 people killed themselves in Seoul’s subway system last year, up from the 58 in 2002. So far this year, 37 people have ended their lives the same way.