I can remember when I was still a newbie to K-pop. I can even remember my first K-pop song. I was so fascinated because it wasn’t like anything I’d heard before. It was SHINee’s song Lucifer that introduced me to the wonderful world of K-pop, and I haven’t looked back since. It has become quite an integral part of my life, it has shaped me and changed me.
What always amazed me was how hardworking K-pop idols are, they literally worked non-stop. From learning choreography to training 24/7, I was motivated to work harder. People who only view K-pop on the surface usually say something along the lines of “K-pop sounds all the same”. But you know what? I, along with millions of other fans, can refute that. There are artists that work incredibly hard to perfect their art, and one of them was Kim Jonghyun.
Kim Jonghyun was a member of SHINee, a K-pop band which debuted in 2008. Not only has SHINee made its mark in the music industry, but Jonghyun had established himself as a talented artist and composer. One of my favourite songs, Lee Hi’s Breathe, was written and co-produced by Jonghyun. He was passionate about music and it showed. Not only was he a talented individual, but a kind and selfless one. He shined so brightly, which it why it pained me greatly when I heard of his passing on 18 December.
It was a friend who informed me, through Snapchat, asking whether it was true or not. I was shocked, thinking it was a distasteful joke of some kind. As the hours passed, it was confirmed that Jonghyun had died in a suspected suicide.
The world was struck with confusion and grief. My social media feeds were full of articles. I don’t think anyone had expected it. Jonghyun was preparing for a concert in December, and it was rumoured that he was planning a comeback. I kept asking myself: ‘He had plans for the future so why did this happen?’. I cried for hours. It’s strange how we can feel so strongly for someone we don’t know personally. But at the same time, we did know Jonghyun. He shared his life through his music, his radio show, his photos, his performances. Yet, we didn’t know of his struggles and suffering. It’s impossible to tell what someone is going through just through snippets of their life.
This should serve as a reminder that the subject of suicide needs to be approached with care and tact. The taboo around mental illnesses needs to stop. There are millions of people that suffer because they feel like they can’t talk about their mental health. If we can openly discuss our physical condition, why can’t we do the same with mental health?
It can feel like you are absolutely alone and helpless, but I guarantee that’s not the case. As someone who also struggles with their mental health, there are times where I feel worthless and have no motivation to continue. Sometimes, I feel like nothing is going right and the world is against me. The world can be scary and seemingly unforgiving but we have to persevere, but we don’t have to do it alone. There is always someone you can turn to for help, whether it’s a family member, a friend or a hotline. Although suicide may seem like the only way sometimes, think about how many opportunities will be lost, think about what you could be, and think about what you could do. Think about what you have done; even the little things, like waking up or making breakfast, is an achievement.
Jonghyun’s life is a life to be celebrated. He has brought so much joy and laughter to his fans, and supported them throughout. It takes incredible courage to openly admit having a mental illness but Jonghyun never shied away from discussing it, especially in his songs. He poured himself into his lyrics and because of that, many listeners felt supported and encouraged by his songs.
The world may have lost a star but his legacy will remain forever. His music will continue to inspire me, and I have nothing but happy and beautiful memories of him. He was, and still continues to be, an inspiration to me. This piece is my way of celebrating Jonghyun’s life, and to say goodbye and thank you.
“You did a good job today, you worked so hard.” – Jonghyun, End of a Day
“It’s okay if your breath gets short, no one is blaming you.” – Lee Hi, Breathe
| In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. Other international suicide helplines can be found here.