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Musical Seoul: Death of Korean idol prompts discussion of mental health in South Korea

Kim Jonghyun performs at SM Town Live in July 2017.

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Kim Jonghyun performs at SM Town Live in July 2017.

Mariene Sanchez, Musical Seoul Columnist

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SHINEE member Kim Jonghyun tragically took his own life. As one of the biggest Korean idols, his death impacted many fans, idols, friends, and family. He was only 27 when he died on December 18, 2017.

As he likely needed desperate help with his depression, he comforted others with his music as well. It has become evident of his cries and hints of his mental health now that he has passed and it has brought up a huge discussion on mental health in South Korea.

A piece of Jonghyun’s farewell letter tells of how Jonghyun wanted someone to know, to realize, how much he was suffering.

“I wanted someone to notice, but no one knew. Of course, they wouldn’t. They never met me before,” the letter stated.

Jonghyun’s doctor is under fire due to blaming Jonghyun’s personality for being depressed as he stated in his letter.

Lee Hi, a YG solo artist, performed her song Breathe in tribute to Jonghyun.

The song is very special in particular because Jonghyun had written and composed it for her. The song’s lyrics are very comforting for people who are going through rough times, and he hoped for the song to reach people and tell them they aren’t alone to which he succeeded in doing so.

His songs were about comfort and bringing it to those who are struggling, but it was him who needed the comfort the most.

Life is a continuation of meetings and farewells. Because of that, I believe that we grow. Immediately, you will regret it, you will feel sad and you will cry but we will meet again.”

— Kim Jonghyun

As Lee Hi was singing Breathe, she couldn’t hold back the tears after she began to sing and the cameraman did a good job on giving her space and not projecting her moment of mourning for a lost friend on screen.

She tried to continue singing but her emotions had gotten the best of her and the audience. In the midst of her silence, she was able to sing once again and finish the song, her voice still shaky as she sang the last few lyrics.

Lee Hi has stated that she dislikes crying in front of people after she sang Breathe and was brought to tears. She also stated that she related to the song for she was in a stressful situation where she felt trapped and couldn’t breathe.

Shortly after Jonghyun’s death, a memorial was held for his fans to leave whatever they pleased for Jonghyun, but due to the homeless taking fans’ gifts and letters from the memorial, SM Entertainment asked fans to refrain from leaving pastries or anything that is edible and to just leave their heartfelt letters at the memorial.

SM Entertainment, the company Jonghyun was signed to, has promised to make a permanent memorial for fans of the idol. The date of the opening of the memorial has not yet been confirmed.

“We sincerely thank everyone who has visited his memorial and paying tribute to the deceased in this cold weather. We are preparing a separate permanent memorial location so fans can honor him and the long time that they had known him. We will announce the details as soon as possible. Thank you for your consideration,” SM Entertainment stated.

Since the passing of the star, SHINEE has decided to go on with the Japan tour they had planned for 2018, for that is what they feel Jonghyun would’ve wanted.

Because the topic of mental health being almost ignored and the apparent ignorance Jonghyun’s doctors, South Korea has lost one of their most loving and compassionate idols.

This isn’t the first time mental health issues have been brought up in the Korean Pop industry. In 2016, a group from YG Entertainment named WINNER had to postpone its comeback due to one of their members, Taehyun, having mental health issues.

Mental health isn’t an issue that should be ignored, whether it be an idol or a regular person. Although many fans believe Jonghyun may have been saved, no one will know nor will they get the chance to find out.

Now, what’s left is the bittersweet memories of the loving idol.

Jonghyun has said, “Life is a continuation of meetings and farewells. Because of that, I believe that we grow. Immediately, you will regret it, you will feel sad and you will cry but we will meet again.”

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Musical Seoul: Death of Korean idol prompts discussion of mental health in South Korea