South Korean suicides have doubled in a decade and are now the leading cause of death for people in their 20s and 30s.

Almost twice as many kill themselves as die in road accidents.

In a campaign to cut suicides by a fifth by 2010, a worried Health Ministry is running a special television commercial.

It opens with a lonely man walking on a bridge. A voice over says: “Think five minutes more before you give it all away … Don’t forget you have a loving family.”

Other ministry plans include setting up more hotlines and training more suicide counselors. Authorities are also cracking down on Web sites that detail methods of suicide and sometimes even sell toxic chemicals.

The distressed individuals Yoo and his police colleagues at the bridge guard posts are hoping to keep alive range from students depressed over poor grades to credit card delinquents and disgraced politicians.

The statistics make grim reading.

South Korea has the fourth-highest suicide rate among the 30 industrialized countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

It recorded 22.8 suicide deaths for every 100,000 people in 2003 — lower than Hungary, Finland and close neighbor Japan — but the number is growing by about 1 percent each year, faster than in all other OECD nations.