Hong Kong SHINee fans hope Jonghyun's death will lead to awareness and conversation about mental health in the K-pop industry

Hong Kong SHINee fans hope Jonghyun's death will lead to awareness and conversation about mental health in the K-pop industry

TRIGGER WARNING: this story contains themes related to death that may be upsetting to sensitive viewers


Jonghyun's portrait on a mourning altar at a hospital in Seoul.
Photo: AFP

K-pop singer Kim Jong-hyun was found unconscius at his residential hotel in Seoul and later declared dead at a nearby hospital.

The 27-year-old lead singer of the popular South Korean boy band SHINee left a goodbye note that was released after he died on Monday.

The news devastated fans of the megastar best known by his stage name, Jonghyun.

Young Post's junior reporter and Durham University student Christy Cheung, 18, went to Jonghyun's solo concert a few months ago in Korea, and said he was "so nice during the concert ... there was a corner where he gave a mic to the fans in the audience and talked to them personally - like a friend."

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Cheung added that she and her friends are "so shocked [because] he was always the bright and smiley one in the group."

Angelina Wang, 16, of Chinese International School is similarly saddened by Jonghyun's death.

"The fact that Jonghyun, who always had such a happy face on camera and seemed so joyful, could feel enough sorrow and helplessness to take his own life breaks my heart," said Angelina, and points out there's little to no talk about mental helath in general within the K-pop industry.

"Mental health and depression is something 'shameful' to be hidden in the shadows, when in reality it's inseparable from the business. It should be treated more openly and with more acceptance."

Kim Jong-hyun, better known by the stage name Jonghyun, performed in Hong Kong in 2012.
Photo: AP

Further, Angelina thinks mutual acceptance of mental health - by the artists and the industry - is necessary for the situation to improve; so future idols won't "feel so pressured to maintain such unrealistically perfect images," a recurring demand and problem within the entertainment industry.

"If the culture was different and he was allowed to (express himself) freely, could this tragedy have been averted?" Cheung questioned.

She also hopes this sad news will make the industry focus more on mental health.

"I do feel that Jonghyun's passing will affect the industry in small but significant ways. We already see other idols' social media being flooded with love," Cheung said.

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Jonghyun’s sister told police she received foreboding text messages from her brother that implied a “final farewell”, and called emergency responders late Monday afternoon, out of fear Jonghyun was going to take his own life, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

Jang Hee-yeon, lead singer of rock group Dear Cloud, posted Jonghyun’s final words on her Instagram at his request.

Jang, a close friend of the late k-pop idol, stated the late singer wanted his final words to be made public after his family had been consulted. She did not specify when the note was written.

“I am broken from the inside. The depression that slowly ate away at me ended up swallowing me. I couldn’t beat it,” Jonghyun says in his note.

Roughly translated, Jonghyun's note mentions the doctor who suggested his depression is because of his personality, and asks an anonymous "you" not to speak of things they don't understand. 

Another part of his note questions why he lacks the will to live when others suffering greater hardships than he go on living, and people who are weaker than he go on living. "Maybe that's not it ... (maybe) there is no one who has more hardships than I do, and who is weaker than I am."

Towards the end of the note, Jonghyun touches upon the dark side of fame, and the side many from the outside criticise celebrities for talking about; because if you're famous, surely you chose that life of your own free will and, therefore, have no right to complain about it now when you've found success.

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“Being known to the world must not have been my life,” his note reads, "That's why everything was difficult ... being known is difficult. Why did I choose that. It's a funny incident."

Jonghyun ended the note with: “Just tell me I worked hard. That I did a good job. That I went through a lot. Even if you can't smile, please don't send me off in blame."

The police plan to wrap up the investigation after speaking with the singer’s family members.

Edited by Heidi Yeung


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