While scrolling through Twitter this morning, I discovered that one of the most influential people in K-Pop history had passed away. Initially, I was uncertain of how to react. It was shocking, but I didn’t feel anything. As the day progressed and more people brought up the news, it started to hit me how significant this event truly was. I feel a bit selfish to be writing about my own feelings regarding Kim Jonghyun, but SHINee was an important part of my life at one time. Their song “Lucifer” is what sparked the resurgence of my interest in K-Pop and paved the way for South Korea to become one of the most flashy and exciting producers of entertainment in the world. The group is so famous that even Obama has praised them publicly.
I’ve spent the day spiraling down through the emotional spectrum while thinking about this tragedy. What really infuriates me is all of the buried factors at play in this situation. Although it’s 2017, talking about mental health is still taboo. In Asian culture, it’s even more so, and definitely frowned upon by most to even mention it. From the little that I knew, Jonghyun appeared to be an individual who was unusually open about his mental state. If given the proper resources, his problems could have been worked on without such a terrible outcome. However, another large issue at hand is the “K-Pop machine”. The Korean music industry operates like a factory where youth sign away their lives without any promise of solo/group assignment or debut. They agree to outlandish terms that control almost every aspect of their life. For whatever reason, this has become an acceptable part of business, despite it being one of the most inhumane systems that I can think of in modern society. It’s inevitable that with incredible amounts of pressure to succeed and having literally no freedoms, on top of having minimal to no chance of breaking contracts, aspiring and successful idols alike will continue to choose suicide. The industry is designed to entrap and enslave individuals for profit, which leaves virtually no other reasonable option to escape.
While the K-Pop industry is something that I’ve always been infatuated with, respect and admire, it needs to change. Not only K-Pop, but the way entertainment business functions in general is in dire need of a new direction. The depressing reality is that those who the general public fawn over, and often become envious of, due to their seemingly glamorous lifestyles, are more likely than not, the most damaged and abused.