photo: SOOMPI (left to right: Choi Jinri, Kim Jonghyun, Goo Hara)
By: Tahnee Riddick
Throughout the past few years, mental health awareness has gradually reached new heights. People of all ages continue to spread positivity across social platforms and those around them, some more than others. Many people have taken the initiative to get the help they need while others are still struggling to bring themselves to the difficult task. Getting to such helpful resources can be a challenge in itself. Individuals wanting help, but have yet to get it, have many reasons as to why they are unable to make it there. Whether it’s because of the price they have to pay to meet a psychologist, the different beliefs and backgrounds that families contain or even how different societies negatively view mental illnesses.
The vast majority of South Korean society is known to prioritize physical health, but give the cold shoulder to those with mental illnesses. Although the country has the highest survival rate of major cancers and strokes, South Korea is known to be ranked among the top five countries for having the highest suicide rates. This is due to the personal matters of individuals being overlooked and therefore being classified as weak by society.
K-pop idols in particular are among those who are neglected from getting treatment which in turn can have a negative effect on their overall performance. On top of the constant work schedules and the pressure to meet fan expectations, negative comments from Korean netizens only make it that much harder for artists to keep up their passionate work ethic. In this lucrative industry, one’s image is everything. If there is one slip up by an artist or if they do not physically meet the country’s standard of beauty, they will not hear the end of it.
SM Entertainment artists Kim Jonghyun, Goo Hara and Choi Jinri, primarily known as Sulli, were three multi-talented idols and advocates for various social issues who fell victim to mental illnesses. Although Kim, Goo and Choi had different experiences, the lack of help for their depression and protection from netizens provided by their company ultimately resulted in the same outcome. In only less than a two year span, Kim, Goo and Choi all committed suicide and left their mark as individuals who made a positive impact on millions. These artists are not the faces of mental illness in the K-pop industry, but they are the prime examples of where companies go wrong when looking after their artists. They were human beings who needed the proper help that wasn’t offered until it was too late.
There was no change in how things worked after Kim’s passing as far as care to artists. However, following the death of Choi and Goo, Major social and news platforms have decided it would be best to remove comments from the sites to prevent anymore anonymous backlash/cyberbullying targeted toward celebrities.
It’s unfortunate that it took the passing of multiple public figures, including those who were not mentioned, to implement a small change in the industry. Within the last year, other famous artists have recently come forward about their mental health state and are thankfully allowed time away from the hectic schedules to take time for themselves. These are small steps for South Korea, and we can only hope that it can continue to get better from here.