South Korea has the highest suicide rate among the 20 countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and it's carried that unfortunate statistic on its back for the past eight years. Between 2003 to 2011, 1,090 people committed suicide by jumping off bridges spanning the Han River, with the Mapo Bridge – nicknamed The Bridge of Death – saddled with the highest death toll.
The solution, conceived and carried out by Cheil Worldwide and Samsung Life Insurance, along with the Seoul City government, was not to install large railings to block people from climbing over the edge, but instead to transform it into The Bridge of Life, making the bridge an interactive experience that displays happy thoughts and messages of hope as people walk by.
The messages on the bridge are intended to make people feel happy, according to The Inspiration Room, with phrases that include "I love you", "Let's walk together", "You look worried. Are you okay?", "For your kids", "Tomorrow's sun will rise", "Did you eat anything?", "Go see the one you miss", "The best has yet to come", "How would you like to be remembered as a father?", "So many things have yet to happen", and "Your mom". There's also a statue of two friends called "Just Once Again", pictures of smiling faces, families and general happiness.
These messages were carefully curated by a team of psychologists and suicide prevention specialists, and the effort seems to be paying off. The Seoul City government says suicides on the bridge have dropped by a whopping 77 percent since the changes were made, and the bridge has now become a popular tourist attraction. Similar actions are being planned for other spans in the area.
See how the bridge was designed and how it operates in the video below.