SHINee pop star’s suicide highlights depression, industry pressure in Korea

Kim Jong-hyun
Kim Jong-hyun, lead singer of South Korean boy band Shinee. (REUTERS/Yonhap)

Kim Jong-hyun, lead singer of South Korean boy band Shinee, died Monday after an apparent suicide, putting the South Korean entertainment industry on spotlight after his farewell letter pointed to possible depression brought on by the enormous pressure he experienced as a celebrity.

The singer’s final message was made public Tuesday, and it revealed that Kim was feeling depressed before his untimely death. “I am broken from inside,” wrote Kim. “The depression that had been slowly eating me up finally devoured me and I couldn’t defeat it.”

The 27-year old pop star hinted that his celebrity status added to the burden he was carrying. “Maybe I wasn’t supposed to come up against the world,” he wrote. “Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be known to the world; I’ve learned that’s what [makes my life] difficult. How come I chose that.”

Kim, who was the front man for popular Korean pop group SHINee, shared in his note that his doctor attributed his inability to shake off his depression to his personality.

The suicide note was made public by a musician named Nine, who performs with the Korean rock band Dear Cloud. According to Nine’s management, the note was handed to her two weeks before Kim’s death.

According to the police, shortly before Kim’s death, he sent his older sister a text message suggesting that he wanted to take his own life. Kim was found by authorities unconscious at a private hotel in Seoul. From there, the idol was taken to a hospital, where he died.

The entertainment industry in South Korea has a world-renowned reputation for being an extremely high-pressure environment. The industry is very competitive, and it pits celebrities against each other with only the strongest ones able to survive.

Many talented performers in the country are being recruited as young teenagers and placed under a lot of pressure to succeed. Many young celebrities prove unable to cope with the demands of the industry, and over the years, a number young talents have committed suicide as a result of the tremendous pressure.