Like many of the world’s largest and oldest metropolises, Seoul owes part of its development to its location on the banks of a river. In the case of the Korean capital, being situated along the Han River contributed to the flow of goods and resources necessary for a large community centuries before the development of trains or automobiles.
The Han River still flows through Seoul today, where the body of water is crossed by the Mapo Bridge. But while the bridge was built with the purpose of serving as a transit artery, it’s also been darkly co-opted by those looking for a place to end their own lives, and the site sees more suicides than almost any other in Korea. Unfortunately, a public service campaign looking to reverse the tragic trend has had the opposite effect, with suicides at Mapo Bridge increasing more than sixfold since the campaign began.
In September of 2012, authorities initiated the Bridge of Life Project in cooperation with Samsung Life Insurance and Cheil Worldwide, an advertising and public relations firm. As part of the project, reassuring messages were written on handrails and signs at intervals along the bridge, such as “Have you been eating alright?” and “Let’s walk together,” ostensibly giving the impression of a conversation with a concerned friend.
Seoul anti-suicide initiative backfires, deaths increase by more than six times