These past few days have been a very sad time for the K-pop community. The news of Kim Jonghyun’s passing was the first thing I saw Monday morning, and I’m still processing it in some ways. I’d like to send my deepest condolences to Jonghyun’s family, his fellow SHINee members, his friends and colleagues at SM Entertainment, Shawols, and anyone else who knew and loved him. Though some time has passed, I still don’t know how to articulate everything I’m thinking and feeling. All the same, I’d like to try.
Though I had the privilege of seeing SHINee at KCON, in truth I’m really somewhere between a casual listener and a fan. However, I relate to them a lot because most members are also adults in their late twenties. Jonghyun was a fellow “90-liner,” just a couple of months older than me. There are many reasons to admire him, but my major ones were our closeness in age and the respect I had for everything that he achieved. I especially looked up to him because he accomplished so much at our age – not just as an idol, but also as a musician and a composer.
The circumstances of someone’s passing are always unfortunate, but this instance is a little difficult for me. Mental health awareness has always been very important to me, especially in connection to the entertainment industry. My personal experiences with anxiety and depression are directly tied to when I was studying acting and filmmaking. Reading Jonghyun’s letter was upsetting because it hit close to home; his words both mirrored and magnified thoughts and feelings I once had in the past. I’ve also often used K-pop as a safe space to retreat to when I’m feeling down. It breaks my heart that someone whose music videos and variety shows I watched to brighten my day was suffering so much. However, it also strengthens my resolve to spread awareness about mental health and be more open about my own experiences.
Monday was a difficult day for the K-pop community, but it was also a rare instance where I’ve truly seen all of the fandoms come together. For one day, my whole Tumblr dash was only posts remembering and appreciating Jonghyun. So while I’m still coming to terms with all of this, I will remember and honor him as well. He was a talented vocalist, a gifted composer and songwriter, an integral part of SHINee, an inspiration to many people out there, and so much more. I have no idea what the afterlife is like, but I hope that there is a way for him to sense how loved he is.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone you can trust or go to this link and call your country’s suicide hotline.
Image credits to SM Entertainment and the SMTown Instagram.