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5 Heartbreaking Facts About Kim Jonghyun, The K-Pop Star Who Died By Suicide

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Who Is Kim Jonghyun?
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Our hearts go out to his friends, family, and fans.

Depression doesn’t discriminate. Mental illness will take anyone. We’ve witnessed it in the past year alone with various celebrities: Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, to name a couple — and that was just in one year.

Now, the world of K-pop is in mourning at the death of Kim Jonghyun, main vocalist for K-pop band SHINee.

According to the K-pop news site Soompi, his company S.M. Entertainment released a statement stating that the South Korean singer was "found in a residence in the neighborhood of Cheongdam and was taken to a nearby hospital, but was pronounced dead on the evening of December 18." He inhaled toxic fumes from coal briquettes burning in a frying pan. He was only 27.

"Jonghyun was the best artist, who loved music more than anyone else and always did his best for his performances," the statement reads. "We are even more heartbroken to have to convey this sad news to the fans who have loved Jonghyun."

I am one of these fans.

This morning, I woke up to many messages from friends asking if I was okay. I had no idea what was going on. But, soon, I did. And words can’t describe how heartbroken I feel.


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So, who is Kim Jonghyun? To us, fans, he was Jjong, dinosaur, bling bling Jonghyun. But he is more than those nicknames.

Here are 5 things you need to know and why is his loss such a heavy one for many of us K-pop fans.

1. He suffered with depression.

Jonghyun wasn’t tight-lipped about his depression. In fact, he often spoke about it. When he was a DJ for his radio show Blue Night, he often spoke about sadness and depression, but he would also tell listeners that it was okay to be sad.

"I think it’s okay to feel lost in your life," he once said. "I think it’s okay not to reach that final goal. You may earn things while being lost or could make something out of it through the emotions you feel. I think it should be your judgment. You don’t have to make someone else judge the satisfaction of your life. I hope that you don’t feel too anxious about feeling lost in your life."

He has also written songs about loneliness and the most memorable one to me is the song, "Lonely", which he released only 7 months ago.

"Loneliness and misery, the difference is only one memory," goes the lyrics (directly translated from Korean).

2. He was a pioneer for the LGBT Community.

In a strict and conservative society that still does not acknowledge the rights and existence of the LGBT community and considers it taboo, Jonghyun had always been vocal about his support.

In 2015, he reached out to a trans-bisexual university student via Twitter to express his support for her and to thank her for fighting for the rights of gay Korean movie director Kim Jo Kwang Soo to get married.

"I support you for speaking out that different doesn’t mean wrong," he said.

3. He was an author.

In 2015, he released his novel, Skeleton Flower: Things That Have Been Released And Set Free. The book contains fictional short stories behind many of the songs he had written for his solo albums as well as songs he had written for SHINee. It took him 2 years to write the book.


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4. His mother and older sister raised him.

Jonghyun rarely spoke about his father. To be honest, many fans don’t really know what happened to him or if he is still in the picture. When it came to his personal life, Jonghyun was often private. But, he once described his father as "a strict man".

His mother and sister often attended SHINee’s concerts, Jonghyun’s solo concerts, and other members’ solo concerts.

He sent his suicide note and last-goodbye to his sister: "It’s been too hard. Please send me off. Tell everyone I’ve had a hard time. This is my last goodbye.”

5. He held a concert a few days before his death.

Jonghyun just recently finished a solo concert and had even filmed an episode of a variety show. He and the rest of SHINee were set to return in 2018 for their annual Japan concert tour.

SHINee had a long hiatus due to a scandal with their leader, but fans remained adamant in waiting for them to return as 5 members, which is now impossible.

So, who was Kim Jonghyun? He was many things: Singer. Composer. Producer. Radio DJ. Author. 

Now that that’s out of the way, who is Kim Jonghyun to me, as his fan? I want to take this opportunity to write about how Kim Jonghyun changed my life.

To me, he was my inspiration. He was sunshine on a cloudy day. He was the glittering gem in a pile of soot. And he gave me comfort in my darkest of days. I have been a fan of K-pop for 8 years now. I wasn’t there when SHINee debuted (I became a fan two years later), but they were one of my firsts and the one band that captured my heart.

Jonghyun, in particular, had always stood out as the member who smiled the most. Who laughed the most. Who made fun of his members (out of love) the most. 

But, when it came to love and appreciation for his member and his fans, he often opted to cry because of how touched he was with all the support. And he, himself, supported his members in everything they did. He would go to their concerts, promote their dramas and shows on social media, and was their loudest cheerleader.

Which is why this loss, his suicide, hit me quite hard. I, myself, had gone through bouts of depression and anxiety throughout my life. Since I was 16, I've struggled with depressing thoughts, suicidal thoughts, and often cried for no reason. The feelings would often come and go, but what made it bearable? SHINee was that one band that I would turn to when I was feeling these. Above all K-pop bands, SHINee were my friends who kept me sane when I felt alone. I didn’t care about the mocking towards me for liking such a genre because when I’m going through that bout of darkness, SHINee shined the way for me to go back.


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And it hurts to know that Jonghyun, one of the five who always made me feel not alone... felt alone.

I’m a lot like Jonghyun. I like to smile even if I'm sad. I easily cry. I often feel lonely. I keep my sad feelings to myself.

I’m still asking myself why? Why he chose to end his life. Why he chose to leave us. How much did he truly feel so alone? Despite the number of people who love him, why did he feel so alone?

The image I chose above is Jonghyun in white. This morning, SHINee’s fans spread the word that they would like any image dedicated to Jonghyun to be in white, because he had been in darkness for too long. It feels right to do that. He was truly a light in many fans' darkness.

And it truly goes to show that you never know who could be suffering in silence. Jonghyun was always smiling. Just a few days ago, I watched videos from his concert. I watched him laugh while filming a variety show. Just a few months ago, in the absence of their leader, he, as the second oldest and second-in-command, was reassuring fans that SHINee would return as five again.

Our fandom's name is SHINee World. We often refer to the five members as our stars. Now, one of them turned into a real one. And he left us with only memories and his songs.

Jonghyun, in the very first reality variety show that I watched him, once asked fans, "Is this the reality that you guys wanted?!"

Jjong, my answer is no. No, it is not.

Depression doesn’t discriminate. Get the help that you need now.

Note to our readers: If you ever need to talk to someone about depression, please call 1-800-273-8255. Someone will always be on the line. You are loved.

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