Many fans are struggling to accept the fact that Jonghyun Kim, the main vocalist of the popular K-pop boy group “Shinee”, took his own life on 12/18/17. I knew about Shinee but never heard of their music, and unfortunately this was the first time learning about Jonghyun.
The group is very popular in Japan, and they were scheduled to have concerts at Tokyo Dome next year. SM Entertainment Shinee belongs to will soon decide whether to hold concerts as scheduled.
Who was Jonghyun Kim?
He was the main vocalist of Shinee that consists of five members. The group debuted in 2008 and quickly became one of the most popular K-Pop groups. Jonghyun’s talent was undeniable from the start. All members sing and dance very well, but Jonghyun was known for his powerful voice and performance as well as for his song writing skills.
Jonghyun also succeeded as a solo artist, and I don’t think we will see another artist like him for a long time. He reminds me of Michael Jackson. Despite his powerful performance, he shares his loneliness, sensitivity and struggles of super stardom through his music.
But most of us didn’t know how much he was suffering. He was probably thinking about ending his life for a long time. Before taking his own life, Jonghyun sent text messages to his sister who was very close to him.
“It’s been very hard. Please let me go and say that I did a good job. This is my last word.”
His sister called the police but it was too late. Jonghyun died of apparent suicide, and the police found burned coal briquettes and he died from carbon monoxide poisoning. He must have done some research on this common method of suicide in South Korea.
Jonghyun also gave a farewell letter to his friend, Dear Cloud’s Nine9. He asked her to share the letter in case he disappears. She was concerned so talked to Jonghyun’s family. But in the end, she thinks that she couldn’t prevent him from taking his own life.
“I am broken on the inside.
The depression that slowly gnawed away at me eventually devoured me.
I couldn’t overcome it.
I hated myself. I resolved to hold on to memories and shouted at myself to come to my senses, but there was no answer.
If there is no way to relieve stifling breath, it’s better to just stop.
I asked who can be responsible for me.
It’s only you.
I was utterly alone.
It’s easy to say you are going to end things. It’s hard to actually end things.
I lived with that difficulty this whole time.
You told me that I wanted to escape.
That’s right. I wanted to escape.
You asked who is over there. I said it was me. I said it was me again. And I said it was me again.
I asked why I keep forgetting my memories. You told me it was because of my personality. I see. I see that everything is my fault in the end.
I hoped that people would notice but nobody knew. You never met me so of course you would not know
I was there.
You asked why I live. Just Because. Just because. Everyone just lives just because.
If you ask why people die, they would probably say it’s because they are exhausted.
I suffered and agonized about it. I never learned how to turn this pain into happiness.
Pain is just pain.
I tried to push myself past it.
Why? Why am I keeping myself from putting an end to it all?
I was told to search for the reason why it hurts.
I know all too well. I am hurting because of me. It’s all my fault, because I was born this way.
Doctor, is this what you wanted to hear?
No. I didn’t do anything wrong.
When you told me in that calm voice that it’s because of my personality, I thought how easy it must be
to be a doctor.
It’s almost fascinating, that it hurts this much.
People that have it harder than me seem to get along just fine.
People weaker than me get along just fine.
But that must not be true. Among the people in this world, no one has it harder than me, and no one is weaker than me.
But I still tried to live.
I asked myself why I had to do so hundreds of times, and it was never for me. It was for you.
I wanted to do something for me.
Please stop telling me things you don’t understand.
You tell me to figure out why I am having a hard time. I told you several times why. Am I not allowed to be this sad just for these reasons? Does it have to be more specific and dramatic? Do I need to have better reasons?
I already told you.
Were you even listening? Things you can overcome don’t remain as scars. I guess I was not meant to confront the world.
I guess I was not meant to lead a life in the public eye.
That’s why it was hard. Confronting the world, and being in the public eye. Why did I make those decisions. It’s ridiculous.
It’s great that I even made it this far.
What more can I say. Just tell me I did well.
Tell me I did well enough and that I went through a lot.
Even if you can’t smile while sending me off, don’t say it’s my fault.
You did well.
You really went through a lot.
There are a lot of speculations on why Jonghyun ended his life even though he seemed to have everything on the surface. We don’t really know, in fact, nobody really knows exactly why he was struggling with depression.
But he isn’t the first celebrity who took his own life in South Korea. South Korea has the highest suicide rate among developed countries, and Jonghyun’s suicide once again highlights Kpop entertainment industry’s harsh reality.
Popular Korean idols are under enormous scrutiny of their talent agencies and public.
South Korea’s entertainment market is small so their artists are expected to learn different languages and succeed in other countries such as in Japan and even in the U.S. No matter how hard these idols try, new idols debut frequently and they are in fierce competition.
Many sources say that accusations and criticisms posted on SNS were hurting Jonghyun. When he publicly supported LGBT community, it sparked fury from ultra-conservative trolls. We can only imagine the stress and pressure he had been under while seemingly leading a glamorous life and suffering from deep depression.
I really hope that SM entertainment will take care of their artists and they should cancel the tour as other members of Shinee are probably still in shock. Artists are humans after all, and they can’t work like robots and continue to please everyone.
Besides, I think that Jonghyun suffered from mental illness. He was definitely very depressed and needed immediate help to avoid the inevitable. Depression is much more than feeling blue occasionally. If left untreated, the sufferer is likely to start to suffer physically and even lose motivation to live.
Depressed people can’t just snap out of it and move on..I really hope that entertainment industry trains their staff so that they can better intervene with crisis situations.
My distant relative that I personally knew ended her life at 40 recently. It is devastating as she has a small baby and seemed to have a very happy life on the surface. But she was struggling and couldn’t win her battle with depression or some other mental illness. People may choose to take their own lives or die with dignity if they are terminally ill.
We are born with an instinct to survive, so if we don’t have mental illness, we can usually come up with alternate plans to escape or cope with stress so we can stay alive. Jonghyun could have taken a break or even quit his successful singing career if depression was not impairing his judgement. Because if we die, that’s it..as long as we are alive, we are going to be ok eventually.
But maybe something else was going on and quitting his career wasn’t an option for him. He felt death was the only way out of this. I grew up in Japan which also has very high suicide rates, and almost everyone in Japan knows someone who has committed suicide. So Jonghyun’s death really made me think about the importance of self care and mental health. In Asia, there is a deep stigma attached to mental illness, so clinically depressed people are likely to blame themselves.
Be strong! You can snap out of it! I don’t know how many times teachers were saying that to depressed students back home. Even in America, I meet many people who think people get depressed because they don’t have enough things to do and they are weak.
That is why clinical depression needs to be treated with medication and professionally trained therapists and doctors. I happen to know a little more than others because I am studying the field right now.
If you are depressed or even thinking about suicide, do not wait and call this number. I wish I did reach out to my relative, but she is gone and I only wish that she is at peace and that her family is doing ok.
Lastly I want to say:
Jonghyun..Rest in Peace. You really did well and it was not your fault at all. You worked really hard and your music will continue to inspire millions of fans around the world. No more pressure, expectation..
Hello My name is Yumi! I am originally from Japan and have been teaching Japanese for almost 10 years. I created yumitolesson.com to make my course available online. I hope you find my course useful and effective!