DUBOIS – In 2006, there were over 10,000 suicides in Korea, According to the World Health Organization. Ben Park, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State DuBois, wants to know why. He spent last year in Korea looking for answers.
“My principal purpose, while I stayed in Korea, focused on collecting primary data to further my research on self-destructive behaviors,” Park said. “In particular, my objective was to obtain personal notes that will enable me to better understand the act of suicide and motives behind the suicide behavior.”
Answers did not come easy, however. Park explained, “In the Korean cultural context in which suicide behavior is associated with a great deal of stigma I was able to obtain only a few personal documents. Instead, I was able to find seven suicide attempters who were willing to participate in my in-depth interview project.” Once these interviews are transcribed and translated, Park said, they will be studied in hopes of finding a link between developmental problems and behaviors of self-destruction.
Park also distributed a survey, which asked participants about things like their reasons for living, attachment to one’s body, and identity development. He was able to collect 249 completed questionairs. With this information Park said he’ll make a cross-cultural comparison with the same type of data that was collected in Isreal, in collaboration with a colleague. He’ll also examine the link or the lack of connection to one’s cultural or ancestral heritage to suicidal ideation. The results will likely be published in papers and scholarly reports.
While performing this research, Park had the opportunity to make several presentations on his work at Korean universities and medical centers. He also taught graduate and undergraduate courses to both native Korean and international students at several different institutions, as well as helped to organize events to educate the public about suicide.
“I am pleased with what I have accomplished during my sabbatical year,” Park said. “I believe that the broadened and deepened cross-cultural knowledge I obtained from my experience teaching in Korea will improve my teaching ability and enhance the quality of education I provide to my students at Penn State. I also expect that I could make further contributions to the local community here in the U.S. due to the experience I had in Korea.”
Park expects to produce a series of publications based on this research.