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Saturday, 7 June 2014

Bridges in Seoul, Part IX: Mapo Bridge, Seoul's Bridge of Death?


The Mapo Bridge (Hanja: 麻浦大橋) crosses the Han River in South Korea and connects from Dohwa-dong, Seoul Mapo-gu to Yeouido Island, Seoul Yeongdeungpo-gu. The bridge was completed in 1970. Until 1984, the bridge was called Seoul Bridge (서울대교). The principal boulevard for this bridge is Mapo Boulevard (마포대로/麻浦大路/Mapo-daero).

Suicide rates are quite high in South Korea and bridge jumping is not uncommon. Mapo Bridge has a reputation of jumpers with over 100 attempts in between 2007 and 2012.

On July 26, 2013, Sung Jae-ki was jumped off Mapo Bridge in an attempt to draw attention to gender inequality against men and a plea to accrue needed funds for 'Men of Korea'. Although rescue work began almost immediately after he fell and a widespread search of the Han River was conducted, his body was not found until July 29, 2013.

In prior to the incident, Samsung Life Insurance will provide ongoing funding via pictures, words, and a statue to encourage potential jumpers not to jump.

Mapo Bridge, one of 25 bridges over the Han River in Seoul City, has become a frequent spot for suicide attempts due to its easy access to pedestrians. In an attempt to prevent such events, Seoul has teamed up with Samsung Life Insurance and its advertising agency Cheil Worldwide to re-position Mapo Bridge as a healing place using technology and a total of 2,200 light-emitting diode (LED) lights. 

The team installed sensors on the guardrails, so that when people walk by, lights turn on according to their movements. Messages offer pedestrians kind words, comforting song lyrics, and funny jokes, some of which include phrases such as: "I love you", "Let's walk together", "You look worried. Are you OK?", "For your kids", and "Tomorrow's sun will rise".

The messages were carefully drafted with psychologists and suicide-prevention activists input. Walking all the way across the bridge, pedestrians continue to see messages until they reach the other end. The campaign has been successful in creating a popular tourist attraction and reducing the bridge's suicide rate by 85%. According to the Directory Big Won 2013 Rankings, it is the world's 5th best campaign across all media channels.