SEOUL (AFP) – South Korea is to make organising a suicide pact a criminal offence, officials said yesterday, as the government seeks to reduce one of the world’s highest rates of self-killing. Its suicide rate has increased sharply since 2000 to 25.6 a year per 100,000 people, twice the average for OECD countries. Prominent suicides regularly make headlines but most victims are elderly in a country where social safety nets are weak. Seoul aims to lower the suicide rate to 17 per 100,000 by 2022. The government said more than 90 percent of those who killed themselves sent warning signals in advance and suicides could largely be prevented through people paying attention. Depression exams will be included in mandatory annual health checkups for all South Koreans from their 40s to their 70s.