A record-high number of deaths ― 372,939 ― hit Korea last year as the COVID-19 pandemic took the lives of older people who are especially vulnerable to the infectious disease, data showed on Thursday.
The data released by Statistics Korea showed the total number of deaths reported in 2022 was up 17.4 percent from a year earlier, marking the highest year-on-year increase since the agency began compiling relevant data in 1983.
Last year's figure also surpassed the 300,000 mark for the third consecutive year since 2020 when the pandemic began.
COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in Korea after cancer and heart disease.
Cancer deaths accounted for 83,378, or 22.4 percent of all deaths reported, while heart disease accounted for 33,715, or 9 percent.
While the pandemic accounted for 31,280, or 8.4 percent of the 2022 deaths, the figure marked a steep 521.9 percent increase from a year earlier.
By age groups, those aged 80 or older made up 53.8 percent of the total number of deaths, up 3.8 percentage points from a year earlier and 17 percentage points compared to 2012.
Those aged between 60 and 79 accounted for 33.7 percent of all deaths, while those in their 40s and 50s accounted for 10.2 percent, and the younger groups 2.4 percent.
Meanwhile, suicide was the sixth leading cause of death last year with a total of 12,906 people taking their own lives in 2022. The figure was down 3.3 percent from a year earlier.
For those aged 10 to 39, however, suicide was the main cause of death, and the second leading cause of death for people in their 40s and 50s.
The suicide rate per 100,000 people stood at 22.6 in 2022, much higher than the 10.6 average among OECD member countries.