This was indeed a tragedy, and many kpop stars have expressed their feelings about her suicide; and the relation to both mental illness and the effect of cyber-bullying on people’s health.
Sulli was only 25 when she died, which makes it even more tragic as she’s the youngest kpop star to die pre-maturely since the death of Eunbi and RiSe (of Ladie’s Code) in a car accident back in Sept 2014. I wept at both funerals.
Here’s my take on this:
Firstly, mental illness is a huge problem in Korea especially. Korea is a very socially conservative country, where depression and mental illness isn’t properly treated and is instead shamed. There is a stigma against expressing yourself in Korea. This leads to many Koreans who feel ‘답답하다’ – feeling that they are keeping feelings bottled inside them and can’t let it out – long term, this is bad for mental health and manifests in either violence (drunken fights, domestic violence etc) or depression (suicide) – Korea has the highest suicide rate out of all OECD countries. This is an issue with Korean society that cannot change until Korean society becomes more open minded and progressive and less judging of others – the very fabric of what makes Korea society what it is today.
Secondly, online bullying is a real problem with not just Korea but every country. It’s especially pronounced in Korea though because of how judgmental people are in that country. Does it make sense to judge someone for showing their a bit of skin on top when Korean women can walk around in incredibly short skirts or shorts with no one saying a thing? That’s one of the ironies of Korean society. It’s conservative in some ways – and yet it’s not in other ways. You have churches surrounded by motels and adult shops. You have porn banned but you have hundreds of movies with bed scenes in them. The society is very contradictory.
And I have my own experience that I can relate to – with both depression and netizens – what you really have to know is that social media really brings out the worst in people. Because they are hidden behind the safety of their own monitor, they feel like they can just say stupid, harsh, ridiculous or ignorant things without any repercussions.
Last year 2018 was really the worst year of my life. I wasn’t enjoying my job at my previous company. I wasn’t able to maintain the long distance relationship I had with my (ex) gf (partly due to my previous company which wouldn’t allow me to take any vacation time to visit my gf in Korea) which led to a messy breakup. I had broken my friendship with one of my closest friends. I had lost one third of my net worth in bad crypto investments. And to top it all off – I was forced to sell my apartment to pay off my loans, move to a place (Vancouver) where I didn’t know anyone and I lost the rest of my money from a scam, trying to move it back to Canada from the US (I was trying to avoid fees from bank commission by using a crypto exchange to move my money back – the CEO suddenly died and it was revealed that it was a ponzi scheme right when I was trying to withdraw my money ). I suffered from deep anxiety and depression because of all of this (losing 90%+ of your net worth in one year and breaking up with a girl you thought you would marry does that to you).
After I got scammed, a few articles popped online about it – and several threads were created on reddit to mock the fact that I had lost all of my money. People saw my Youtube videos online and insulted me, chided me for being an idiot for taking such a huge risk and accused me of being a money launderer. Some netizens even encouraged me to take my own life, saying that ‘stupid people like this deserve to lose their money and shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce’.
Did I contemplate suicide? Of course I did. But I also tried to talk to my friends and family more. Out of this I have to thank my family + friends for providing me support in my darkest times and giving me a reason to live. I realized that money was not everything and that I can always make it back. I realized that people online shouldn’t be taken seriously and that the only people you should take seriously are the people who are closest to you. “People who mind, don’t matter – and the people who matter, don’t mind“.
Sorry my story is kind of a tangent, but the point to hit on is this; We can’t pray for easy lives. Because life isn’t easy. We have to pray to be stronger people. We have to re-assess what is our true purpose in life and what we are living for. Who are the people who care about us? These are the things we should think about before we can decide to suicide or take our own life.
I can’t pretend to know what was on Sulli’s mind when she decided to take her own life – perhaps if I was in her shoes in the constricting Korean society with all its pressures and being only 25 years young my mind would have been the same as hers – but what we can learn from it is that perhaps Korean society should take mental health more seriously, Korean entertainment companies could treat its stars better, perhaps netizens could think more about the real-life implications of their comments and perhaps before doing something like taking our own lives we can think about other people that care about us – in a way suicide is an act of selfishness – because Sulli surely had a lot more people that loved her than hated her. I wish she would have re-thought things more before she did what she did – but it always takes a tragedy for human society to progress I feel.