How did jonghyun die: Jonghyun’s Suicide Note Demonstrates the Harsh Effects of Korean Spotlight
On Tuesday, Kim Jong-hyun’s farewell note to fans revealed the immense pressure he felt as a celebrity in South Korea.
“I am broken from within,” wrote Kim Jonghyun of Korean pop sensation SHINee. “Depression that had been building inside of me slowly consumed me and now has completely consumed me.”
On Monday morning, 27-year old singer-songwriter was found unconscious at a private hotel in Seoul and later passed away from what police are treating as suicide.
On Monday, Kim’s older sister received a text message from him suggesting he intended to commit suicide. On Tuesday, an extended suicide note was uploaded on the Instagram account of Nine – musician with modern rock band Dear Cloud – which her management said had been given to her two weeks prior to Kim’s passing.
Kim wrote that his doctor had blamed his personality for his inability to overcome depression. While Kim’s note does not elaborate on what had been burdening him, it could be speculated that being a celebrity added further stressors.
“Maybe I wasn’t supposed to face off against the world; maybe I wasn’t supposed to be known by anyone in particular – that’s made my life difficult,” he wrote. “How come I chose that path?”
The Korean entertainment industry is notoriously high-pressure. It creates a “Hunger Games”-like work atmosphere in which everyone is a competitor and only the strongest survive. Many talented individuals are recruited as teenagers who may not be emotionally mature enough to handle discipline or scrutiny. Furthermore, Korean society sets high standards of behavior and physical appearance; using social media as instant judgment.
Since the late 1990s, when Korean pop music, film and TV dramas gained international success, several young Korean talents have taken their own lives. Many left behind messages warning of the perils of this industry.
Charles Park, better known by his stage name Seo Ji-won, was one of the earliest K-pop celebrities to take their own life on January 1, 1996. In a note to himself before passing away, he expressed concern about his debut album’s sudden success and whether its follow-up album, which he had finished recording before passing away, would be equally successful. At 19 years old, Charles Park passed away suddenly at home from complications related to diabetes.
Actresses and other female artists have committed suicide due to depression and disillusionment with the industry. Jang Ja-yeon, who had a supporting role in the Korean version of hit TV series “Boys Over Flowers,” wrote in her suicide note that she had been pressured into performing sexual favors by so-called sponsors who help talent land roles on popular shows or films.
According to a source close to actress Jeong Da-bin, who passed away in 2007, Jeong had become depressed due to her lack of work, the imprisonment of her former manager and online attacks about her appearance.
Actress-turned-singer U;Nee committed suicide the following year after becoming depressed from online criticism, particularly over her sexy style. According to police reports, people close to U;Nee stated that she had become distressed by these attacks on her online persona.
Though the exact motivations behind Kim’s suicide remain unknown, his last words reveal some of K-pop’s darker underbelly.