South Korea is known to have one of the biggest figures of suicide deaths in the world. The perfectionist society’s pressure on its citizens is to blame. The Korean wave’s spreading its cultural contents worldwide since the 2000’s does not have only positive consequences. The Korean entertainment business is famous for being controlling over their artists, especially with their “slave contracts” full of illegal clauses. Nevertheless, depression is one of the biggest factors of suicides not only in the industry but in the country as a whole. The demanding industry, and its harsh criticism also cannot be overlooked as a substantive cause.
The leader and main vocal of the famous of the boysband SHINee committed suicide last year, on the 18th of December 2017 in a hotel room in Seoul the city where he was born. He died at the age of 27 years old when he was living his famous popularity like many other famous artists such as Amy Winehouse and Jimi Hendrix.
“The depression that has slowly nibbled me away has now devoured me, and I couldn’t overcome it” – Kim Jong-Hyun
The cause of his death has been confirmed to be carbon monoxide poisoning. He sent multiple text messages to his sister before his death implying that depression has defeated him. “This is my last goodbye”, “Things are difficult”, “Tell me I did well and let me go.” “I’m broken from the inside” : a posthumous note was made public denouncing his mental health and the ineffective treatment of it. Although the singer’s family and close relatives were aware of his depression issues, medical help was highly needed. He complained about his doctor’s indifference and antipathy during their consultations, another cause of his mental health’s deterioration.
SHINee debuted in 2008, and greatly contributed to the Hallyu Wave which is the spread of the Korean culture such as K-pop (Korean pop mixed with other genres) in Western countries through SM Entertainment one of the big three entertainment industries in Korea. Kim Jong-Hyun started a solo career recently in 2015. Kim was a singer, dancer and writer-composer. His voice was unique just like his style. His voice is considered by many polls as the most beautiful one in Korea. He managed to differentiate himself from the masses. He was even considered by a music label to be “born to make music”. The group had many concerts abroad and was successful both in Korea and overseas. Before the unfortunate event, he was working on his album and having concerts. After his death, a posthumous album was released on the international music platform iTunes where it stayed in the number one spot for a couple of weeks.
Kim Jong-Hyun was very sensitive to differences and supported the LGBT community which is very courageous in a rather conservative society. His support attracted the fire of politicians to which he replied “different does not mean wrong”.
His death raised the issue of depression because of a competitive society and a harsh media. The issue denounced is the enormous pressure artists get from the Korean entertainment business, consequence of their loneliness “I was so lonely” – Kim.
In synch with his generous personality he donated his organs and left all his assets to his sister whom he dearly loved.
His death will hopefully reinforce the idea that Korean pop idols are humans too and need help when they are sick in a society where appearances prevail.