“Before, families lived together in one home”, says Choi Seong-Wo, who runs a soup kitchen for Seoul’s elderly. Many of his regulars have been abandoned by their children and are now forced to live on paltry state benefits in pensioner ghettos. “Confucianism is in the past, it’s ancient history”, he adds. Capitalism has replaced it, and traditional family values have been left by the wayside, driving the old to desperate measures. “Suicide is a full-blown epidemic”, says Captain Seo Hyung-Gun, whose rescue team patrols the river night and day. In the countryside, the problem is worse, though it remains taboo. “You don’t talk about it; people are in denial”, says Sho Jin, who lost his best friend. Like many in poor rural regions abandoned by the young, he committed suicide by drinking pesticides. In Gwando province last year, 500 took their lives in this way. Faced with figures like these, the government responded by spending 2.5 million on suicide prevention in 2014. But it may need to re-think it’s approach to a problem that is as much social and psychological as it is material.