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The number of people who committed suicide in 2002 exceeded 30,000 for the fifth straight year, according to data released Thursday by the National Police Agency.

Suicides tied to economic difficulties logged a record high.

There were a total of 32,143 suicides, up 3.5 percent from a year earlier. Around 60 percent of the people who took their own lives were aged 50 or older, while 7,940 killed themselves due to “economic or livelihood problems,” the highest number since the agency started compiling statistics in 1978.

The figures reflect the increase in the number of people who have lost their jobs amid corporate cutbacks, along with the growing number of individuals plagued by debt problems as the economic slump drags on.

The number of suicides rose for the first time since peaking at 33,048 in 1999.

Male suicides rose 4.2 percent to 23,080, while female suicides increased 1.9 percent to 9,063.

By age, those aged 60 or older constituted the largest group, 11,119, or 34,6 percent. Next were those in their 50s at 8,462, followed by those in their 40s at 4,813. Suicides among those aged up to 29 fell from the previous year.

Health problems was the most common reason, at 14,815, down 316 from the year before.

Suicides tied to economic and livelihood problems jumped 1,095.

By occupation, more than half the total suicides were committed by people without jobs, hitting 15,117. Meanwhile, 7,470 suicides involved employees, 4,089 were self-employed, 2,896 were housewives and house-husbands, and 745 were corporate managers.

Suicides in the latter two categories both hit record highs.