To Overcome Werther Effect
To Overcome Werther Effect
  • reporter Choi Eun-je
  • 승인 2020.01.05 18:12
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▲ Werther and Charlotte in the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther
▲ Werther and Charlotte in the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther


“Werther effect”, which is a phenomenon named after the main character of Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, refers to a spike of emulation suicides after a widely publicized suicide. In the novel, Werther shoots himself after he is rejected by Charlotte, the woman he loves. After the novel was published, there were reports of copycat suicide of young men who emulated Werther and it originated the term, Werther effect.
Recently, a series of celebrity’s suicide in Korea raises a concern about Werther effect among celebrities. This tragedy started from Sulli, a former member of f(x) and actor, who was found dead on Oct. 14. It seems that severe depression led her to take her own life. Her close friend Goo Ha-ra, a member of KARA, expressed regret over Sulli’s death and found dead on Nov. 24. Recently, rookie actor Cha In-ha was found dead in his house.
Three celebrities took their own life within two months. It not only shocked the public but also spreaded the concern about Werther effect. How should our society react to rescue the future victim of Werther effect?
“Papageno effect” is the effect that mass media can have when they refuse to publicize or change the way provide information about suicide event, the risk of copycat suicide declines. There is a guideline for reporting suicides in media in Korea, made by the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Journalists Association of Korea. It advises not to broadcast the event specifically and to provide information for suicide prevention.
Also, there is a demand to reform the comment system in internet portal sites. Both Sulli and Goo Ha-ra continuously suffered from malicious comments. The hateful comment is a problem that most celebrities suffer from. After Sulli’s death, one of the biggest internet portal site in Korea, “Daum”, abolished a comment system on celebrity section news. Other portal sites need to modify the system to protect celebrities from hateful comments and the public also needs to be responsible for its comments on the internet.

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