SEOUL, The government will look into all suicide deaths over the past five years, totaling about 70,000, to find the reason people decided to take their own lives and come up with preventive measures, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said Thursday.

Lee made the remark during a ceremony to launch a government-civilian council on preventing suicide, saying South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, with about 13,000 people losing their lives by suicide, which translates into 35 suicide deaths a day or one suicide death every 40 minutes.

"In particular, there is a large number of elderly suicides. Suicide is also the No. 1 cause of deaths among the younger generations," Lee said during the ceremony to kick off the council, comprising six government agencies and dozens of organizations from the business, religious, civic, media and labor communities.

"The issue of suicide has worsened so much since a long time ago that it cannot be addressed unless the government and civilian sectors step forward to make joint efforts," Lee said.

Lee said the government of President Moon Jae-in has put a high priority on preventing suicide, as he included the matter in a set of his administration's top policy goals. Still, the government alone cannot address the problem, he said.

"The entire society should work together," he said.

Lee said the government will look into all suicide deaths for the past five years.

"We will look into how they ended up in despair and isolation," Lee said. "It will serve as basic data for putting together preventive policies in a scientific and systematic manner."

Lee called for concerted efforts to prevent suicide-encouraging information from spreading, promote a culture of respecting life, and train experts on discerning pre-suicide signs and preventing such attempts.

Japan had high suicide rates but succeeded in lowering the rates sharply by 30 percentage points through various policies and a social campaign, Lee said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency