Following the death of 27-year-old K-pop star Kim Jong-hyun who had allegedly committed suicide, grief-stricken fans worldwide offered heartfelt condolences. Devastated, some lined up the road as the hearse carrying Jonghyun’s coffin left the hospital, while others took to social media to share their memories of Jonghyun. And an Indonesian fan had been found unconscious from an overdose and hospitalised in an apparent suicide attempt on Thursday, three days after Jonghyun passed away, according to Indonesian media reports.
One can’t help but notice that Jonghyun’s fervent followers are mainly females, and of younger age groups, who tend to be particularly vulnerable to emotions and traumas.
As soon as I woke up, my tears started streaming again. My chest aches as I picture Jonghyun's face in my mind and ponder about what has happened. How I wish it was only a nightmare.
— Pat (@nabixxi) December 18, 2017
So what’s so attractive about this young fellow musician?
Just like other K-pop stars, Jonghyun is good-looking. Some people criticise K-pop stars for being plastic, perhaps because many Korean celebrities have gone through knives just to survive the competitive and arguably superficial industry. As an iconic South Korean idol and oppa, Jonghyun indeed suffices women’s ideal images of a prince charming.
However, look is apparently not a prominent reason for his popularity, according to his fans and peers.
As much as the standard for appearance is high in Korea’s entertainment industry, criteria for singing and performing ability can be equally, if not more demanding. That being said, Jonghyun is both a vocalist and a song-writer, and stands out to be the lead singer of his band SHINee. He penned the lyrics for Shinee’s hit, Juliet, and wrote the lyrics and melodies for most of the songs in his solo career. Further, he has hosted solo concerts, with the last taking place less than two weeks before his passing. His company, S. M. Entertainment is one of the most influential entertainment companies in South Korea, a label to other K-pop stars such as Girl’s Generation and EXO.
His death is believed to be a loss to the entire K-pop music industry, as SHINee is one of the very few bands left to be seen complete and unbreakable, while others have disbanded or resigned. Jonghyun is also believed to have dedicated work ethics, seen from his consistent release of wholehearted songs, and the lack of participation in other forms of commercial and private activities. His friend said he often blamed himself for being not able to deliver satisfying musics.
— Thank You Jonghyun (@Baeksic_) December 18, 2017
Although it is hard to generalise a person’s personality without getting personal, one does trust the words from whom he knows well. Jonghyun is described to be well-received and charismatic by his band members and other celebrities.
During his latest concert in Japan, TVXQ’s Yunho felt sorrow not being able to attend the farewell service. During a stage, he knelt down and cried out “Jonghyun-ah!”, screaming at the top of his lungs while singing “Somebody to Love”.
Following the sudden loss of Jonghyun, South Korea’s music industry has slowed down, with many high profile stars such as EXO and TWICE deferring releases of new music, or canceling activities altogether out of respect to the deceased. Taeyeon from Girl’s Generation also wrote on social media “goodnight Jonghyun, you had a difficult day” and recalled the time when they sang “Lonely” together in pink.
According to his fans, Jonghyun’s condition was hardly known to people, as he always made sure to put on a smile and make people’s day. Fans have made a heartbreaking realisation that Jonghyun had a tattoo of the symbol for depression. Earlier this year Jonghyun got a tattoo of a dog on his left rib cage alongside the words: ‘I have a black dog. If you touch, you’ll get bitten!’ Since then, the post was flooded with comments like “I’m sorry Jonghyun:'(”
Jonghyun is also known to be a selfless and caring person. It is believed that he had signed for organ donation, and had left heritage for his elder sister before leaving the world.
4. Memories of teenage life
SHINee had officially set foot on the path since 2008 and had remained consistent. Faithful fans could recall who they used to be when they first got to know of Jonghyun. To them, Jonghyun is not just an idol, but probably their companion or best friend.
“Back in time, I was still a naive high school girl in uniform,” wrote a Chinese netizen on Weibo, “I grew up with Jonghyun and he means my entire teenage days.”
“In your next life, just be a commoner. The world has been too harsh to you,” read another Weibo comment.
so, he is really gone ???? this breaks my heart so much even tho I'm just a lowkey fan of SHINEE. May your beautiful soul rest in peace, thank you for the memories, inspiration, and everything. Your legacy will forever remain. We love you, Jonghyun. #RIPJonghyun
— a ???? (@axylinurarea) December 18, 2017
5. Revelation of the reality
While Jonghyun expressed depression had consumed him, the incident could be just the tip of an iceberg. South Korean celebrities’ personal lives are strictly monitored and controlled. Strict dating rules apply, as members have to appear virginal and perpetually available for fans to pin their own desires or aspirations on. Diets of artistes are also closely watched. His passing sends a signal to the society, and to the profit-driven industries, where failure is often condemned, stigmatised.
Therefore, no one is in a position to comment on Kim Jonghyun’s death.