The death of K-pop band star Kim Jong-hyun, better known by the mononym Jonghyun, has sent shockwaves among his fans worldwide.
The vocalist of South Korean band SHINee left a heart-breaking goodbye letter detailing his inner turmoil before he took his own life at the age of 27.
The singer was found unconscious Monday afternoon at his apartment in Cheongdam-dong in Seoul after his sister called the police stating Jonghyun was trying to commit suicide. When the police arrived, they saw burning brown coal briquettes inside a frying pan, a common method of committing suicide in South Korea.
The paramedics performed CPR but Jonghyun went into cardiac arrest and died on his way to the hospital. Although the official cause of death will not be released until after an autopsy is performed, it is believed the musician died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Jonghyun earlier sent his sister several text messages saying, “This is my last farewell” and “please let me go and say I did a good job,” which led her to make the call to the police.
The singer’s death comes after a long and public battle with depression. He rose to fame after he debuted as part of the five-member SHINee in 2008. He was also credited with co-writing much of the band’s music and later wrote for other bands under the SM label, including the popular boy band Exo. He also launched a solo album in 2015 and was part of the “Korean Wave” that saw the K-pop culture go viral globally.
Jonghyun is also famous for voicing his opinions on government’s education policy, political discontent and for advocating LGBTQ rights.
As his family, fans and friends mourn the loss, SHINee posted a goodbye message on Twitter.
“Jonghyun. The person who loved music more than anyone, who enjoyed the stage, who liked to communicate with fans through music, the best artist. We will remember you forever,” the caption translated.
Jonghyun’s close friend, musician Nine9, also shared a letter the artist left her, claiming he requested her to make it public in the event of his death.
“I am broken from the inside. The depression that slowly gnawed away at me has finally swallowed me whole. And I could not defeat it,” a part of the translated note read. “Clashing with the world was never meant for me. The life of fame was never meant for me. That’s all the reason why it hurts. Because I’m famous. Why did I choose this? It’s so funny.”
The heart-wrenching letter ended with, “It’s a wonder I lasted so long. What can I say. Just tell me I’ve done well. That this is good enough. That I’ve worked hard. Even if you can’t smile don’t fault me on my way. You did well, you worked hard. Goodbye.”
Jonghyun's Final Letter, as transmitted by Dear Cloud's Nine - Revision 1— mes #TeamPinky (@OH_mes) December 18, 2017
Thank you to everyone who sent me corrections
Please continue to tell me if there are errors, I will correct them and re-upload an edited version. pic.twitter.com/9PUuv7T68Q
South Korea is an ultra-competitive country and has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. K-pop artists have to struggle through cutthroat competition and years of grueling training by agents, who dictate what singers eat and sing and even monitor their mobile phone use.
Celebrities are also pressured to maintain a squeaky-clean and smiling image at all times, regardless of their actual well-being (a fact that Jonghyun talked about) and ordered to stay away from troubles including complicated romances.
“He actually specifically talked about the importance of giving each other physical and emotional space,” K-pop expert Jeff Benjamin told The Washington Post. “Despite the circumstances of how he may have passed, which we still need to wait for the autopsy report, it sounds like he was very much thinking about mental health and how to best navigate that or survive.”
Within 12 hours of Jonghyun’s death, over 5.2 million mentions of him appeared on Twitter and the social media was flooded with throngs of his fans mourning. His demise also sparked a social media movement under the hashtags #MyMentalHealthIn5Words that encourages people to talk about their psychological issues.
Jonghyun’s tattooist reveals BYE is the last tattoo he wanted to get pic.twitter.com/HBqLJXtFah— ?? ?? ??? ?? (@hoyingxcoco) December 19, 2017
regardless of what fandom you're in, today the kpop community mourns together. I don't even know what to say, just that I'm sorry we lost you Jonghyun. I am a sone but damn this hurts like hell. RIP Jonghyun we will miss you dearly.— foreversoshi (@foreversoshi) December 18, 2017
Lets remember Jonghyun for all the great things he did over the years, for gifting us the opportunity to love someone entirely & for letting us see the sheer dedication he had towards his group, fans and family. Fly high ??— MIXNINE GLOBAL (@Mix9_official) December 18, 2017
Thank you for everything you have done. Rest in peace angel. pic.twitter.com/rVZkpU9YSj— 94 DEGREES (@94_degrees) December 18, 2017
one thing i want to say is, don't remember jonghyun for how he died— ire (@ourfelix) December 18, 2017
remember him as the idol who fought for lgbt rights, who made beautiful and some of the most meaningful songs you'll ever hear, a dog lover, a caring man who loved his group members and everyone around him
shawols in chile did this amazing thing, rest in piece jonghyun you will be greatly missed pic.twitter.com/USCwuESEh0— lisette?jonghyun (@junhoons) December 19, 2017
jonghyun didn’t hide his depression behind a “brave face”, he was open about his depression. he was always open about his fight with mental health— ? you did well (@pjmthelast) December 18, 2017
don’t romanticize his death
this is real life. he was a real person. he tried so hard.
Take a break for yourself. #MyMentalHealthIn5Words— ?? ??? ????? (@_jungkook_wife) December 18, 2017
Rest in Peace Jonghyun. Stay strong SHINee, Shawol and his family. He will be forever missed. Take care of yourself. Stay healthy and remember it’s easier with someone by your side. ???? ?? ??? ?? ??
~From the BTS A.R.M.Y.
RIP Jonghyun ?? Was just watching a bunch of your videos last night. If any of you are struggling, please talk to someone. You are not alone. Believe me, the world is a better place with you in it #Jonghyun #MyMentalHealthIn5Words— Q (@qpark) December 18, 2017
Rest in Paradise to Jonghyun. Heart goes out to family, friends, and his fans. Stay up everybody, spread love and compassion ??????— JAY BUM PARK (@JAYBUMAOM) December 18, 2017
Rest in Paradise Jonghyun ??— All Night Aoki (@steveaoki) December 18, 2017
SHINee’s agent SM Entertainment said Jonghyun’s funeral would be held on Dec. 21. His band members, Lee Jinki, Kim Kibum, Choi Minho and Lee Taemin will be the head mourners at his funeral wake.
Banner/Thumbnail: Yonhap via REUTERS