SEOUL, June 5 (Yonhap) -- The Seoul municipal government said Tuesday it will operate an ombudsman service to keep watch on Web sites that encourage suicide in an effort to cope with the rising number of people taking their own lives.
"(The city) decided to create a watchdog group as suicide is no longer an individual problem but rather a social issue that we must all take part in to resolve," a Seoul official said.
Comprised of 100 members, including students, homemakers and mental health specialists, the group will monitor blogs, portals and social networking Web sites for the next year to keep a lookout for sites that incite its users to commit suicide, according to city officials.
The city's suicide prevention centers, likewise, will take immediate action and launch an investigation upon notification of the potential risks on the Web sites, the officials added.
The so-called Internet suicide communities, where friends or even strangers can encourage and negotiate a suicide agreement, have emerged as a social problem in recent years.
South Korea currently has the highest suicide rate among the member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
According to statistics, about 31 in every 100,000 South Koreans committed suicide in 2010. Within the Seoul population, the figure stood at approximately 26.2 people, up from 19.8 in 2005.