K Pop fans everywhere are currently suffering from a devastating and puzzling loss of the lead singer of SHINee. Kim Jong-hyun, known by fans as Jonghyun, died Monday in what police are ruling as a possible suicide.
SM Entertainment, SHINee’s record label, confirmed the news of Jonghyun’s shocking death on Monday.
“We are sorry to deliver such heartbreaking and unfortunate news,” the statement read. On December 18, SHINee member Jonghyun suddenly left us. “Jonghyun was the best artist who loved music more than anyone and gave his all on the stage,” the statement said. “It is heartbreaking to deliver such sad news to the fans who loved him.”
Monday afternoon, the lead singer was found unconscious at his residential suite in Cheongdam-dong, a high-end part of the Gangnam District in Seoul, and was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was later declared dead, the statement said.
Jonghyun’s sister told the police that she was receiving uneasy text messages from her brother, which led her to call the police to his place because she was scared he would take his own life.
It has not been confirmed if it was a suicide by police; an autopsy has yet to occur.
SHINee broke out onto the Korean music scene in 2008 and had been topping the charts ever since. Jonghyun was also a very successful solo artist, having lots of collaborations with other artists and appearances on “Saturday Night Live Korea.”
“SHINee was a really innovative boy band, and they really represented how Kpop is in this very innovative, boundaryless music scene,” K-pop expert Jeff Benjamin told The Washington Post. “Jonghyun debuted as a teenager, and I think a lot of people felt like they grew up with him.”
Benjamin works over at Fuse TV as an editor and has been a K Pop columnist for Billboard for five years now. He has been quoted many times that even though SHINee has been around for a while, they remained relevant, which is a huge accomplishment.
Benjamin has also stated that the band never had any public issues or drama. Benjamin interviewed Jonghyun earlier this year at Kcon in Los Angeles.
“He actually specifically talked about the importance of giving each other physical and emotional space,” Benjamin said. “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 navigate that best or survive.”
Fans have pointed out that Jonghyun’s final Instagram post on November 20th was song lyrics from another Kpop band, “Dear Cloud,” from the song, “Beside You,” which read:
“Crouched my body in a dark room and thought to myself; Will you one day regret letting go of everything; Will the constant wounds and exhausted sighs come to a stop; I pray you are no longer in pain; All I wish is for you to be happy; Please don’t stay in the darkness alone; Don’t torture yourself; Don’t torture yourself; Please.”
The topic of Mental Health has been a topic of conversation for the past year. In 2017 we lost many artists like Chester Bennington of Linkin Park and Little Peep. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 44,193 people die of suicide each year in America alone.
Every time an artist dies of possible or confirmed suicide, the topic is discussed for a day, and then everyone moves on. Mental Health is a serious topic and cannot be swept under the rug. Tragedies such as Jonghyun happen way too often for it to be ignored. Unless some serious change and action are taken from now on, losses like this will keep going, and the cycle will never end. Listen to SHINee’s music to pay tribute, and moving forward, let’s change the way we talk about Mental Health.