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Is There a Suicide Epidemic Among K-Pop Stars?

The life of a K-Pop musician seems very glamorous. They’re beautiful, they have rabid fans and they’re becoming the most popular genre of music in the world. Everyone who has dreamed of being a rock star can relate to the desire to be a K-Pop idol.

But it isn’t an easy life. K-Pop singers are usually forced into signing long-term contracts that put them under the control of a label for decades, and while they’re under those contracts, most of the money they bring in goes to their label. And if you want to make it big, we’ll, let’s just say Harvey Weinstein would fit right in as a K-Pop producer.

And then their are the social expectations. South Korean celebrity culture is not the same as it is in the US. We expect our celebrities to be, for lack of a better word, poorly behaved. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll is the expectation. Korean stars, on the other hand, are expected to be paragons of moral virtue. Maybe not the extent that they once were, but they’re generally expected to be completely chaste, even dating can ruin a K-Pop star’s career. It’s a lot of pressure.

Singer Goo Hara was found dead in her home in Seoul, apparently of suicide. The Independent reports that the singer had previously been having problems with an ex.

In May, Goo was reportedly found unconscious at her home and was hospitalised after an alleged suicide attempt. At the time, she was embroiled in disputes with an ex-boyfriend who threatened to circulate a sex video of her.

When Jennifer Lawrence’s nude pictures were leaked, the public immediately took her side and there was a massive blowback against the leaks and the sites that published them. In Korea, it’s likely that a female star’s career would be ruined over a similar leak.

Goo Hara isn’t the only K-Pop star to die by suicide.

In 2007, U;Nee died at age 25, saying “I feel everything is empty. I am again walking down a path to reach a destination that I don’t know,” in an online post.

Ahn So Jin leapt 10 stories to her death in 2015 at just 22 years old.

Jonghyun of SHINee committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning in 2017 at age 27.

Just two months ago, Sulli, an outspoken proponent of social change, sparked a discussion on cyber-bullying and toxic fandom with her suicide.

That seems like a lot of people. This might be a problem. But there are no easy answers. While the world of K-Pop might be adding to the problems some stars are struggling with, mental illness isn’t something that can just be fixed with a few industry reformed. Anyone who is having suicidal thoughts should talk to someone about it, see a therapist or even just call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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