Yesterday, Tuesday October 15th, 2019 in Korea, I went for a walk in the morning. As I was walking around, the streets were quiet, very quiet. The last time I saw things this quiet on a weekday was the day a typhoon was about to hit Seoul. I grabbed a bite to eat before walking to a store to get some groceries. On my way to the store, and on my way back to where I’m staying, the noise of traffic and people were back to a normal volume. That’s how it feels online right now as well.
As Monday night turned into Tuesday morning, I decided to go through Instagram to see what was happening in the world. That’s how I found out about the news of Sulli’s death. Again, another star from Kpop is dead. Again, another star from Kpop is dead before the age of 30. Again, another start from Kpop is dead from suicide. Again, another star from Kpop is reported to suffer from sever depression. Again, another star from Kpop was said to be severely depressed due to cyber bullying and nasty comments made about them online. Again, another star from Kpop made international news because of their tragic death. Again, another star from Kpop dies of suicide and the industry comes to a halt with their colleagues feeling remorse and their own sense of depression.
At first, you think to yourself that this time will be different. This time, people will wake up an realize how messed up this culture is. This time, people will realize what a problem suicide is in Korea. This time, people will realize that they need to keep their negative comments to themselves. However, that hasn’t been the case, again.
As I write this, Sulli has barely been dead for 48 hours. Her funeral hasn’t taken place yet. Her friends and colleagues have just barely arrived in Korea and the full autopsy report hasn’t been revealed yet. But you have people online in articles talking about the death of Sulli bashing each other in the comments section. Yes, a woman who was said to have took her own life due to negative online comments during her short life on this earth, has the final articles about her life and career filled with angry people wanting to find something wrong with other people and bash them online.
While there are a number of reasons for this, the fact is that some people haven’t learned anything from Sulli’s death, or any of the other deaths that have happened. The only difference being that Sulli’s funeral and casket carrying will hopefully be private. (The funeral of Kpop stars are usually private, with an official statement possibly being given as to who spoke or the mood of everyone at the service. In this article, casket carrying refers to the time when the casket of the deceased is carried out of the hospital to the hearse. When the location of the funeral is known, fans and media will be outside near the hearse to witness this event. Usually, out of respect to the wishes of the family, the hearse is not followed after it drives off from the funeral. The body is then either buried or cremated, which is done in private. If you see video of a Kpop star’s funeral online, it is usually a clip of the casket carrying.)
Now there is talk of a possible “Sulli Act” to help deal with hateful speech online and cyber bullying by people who try to spread hate while being anonymous online. Yes, we are at a point where we need an actual law to be passed for people to not make negative, hurtful and bullying comments about other people online. The fact that we are at this point is just sad and ridiculous. If you don’t like someone, why are you watching them or giving them negative feedback all the time? The obsession with Kpop and the stars is something that needs professional attention.
For an example of how crazy and stupid some fans are, besides some of the comments in the Sulli articles online, a Kpop star received criticism years ago for her music video. It wasn’t because of the words or her dance moves with this video. It was because some men stopped the video at certain sections, zoomed in as far as they could and complained that this young woman had stretchmarks on her thighs and they thought she was disgusting for it. She was barely 21 years old at the time, yet this is what she had to put up with from crazy, obsessed “fans” and people looking to post negative content online. People entering Kpop have to put up with people looking for something wrong with their bodies, voices, ethnic backgrounds and even due to who they are dating when they do get a free moment.
While there are many beautiful things about Korean culture, there are many toxic things about it as well. Slowly, more and more people are starting to realize that this is a situation that needs to stop. There are too many lives that have been lost due to the toxic nature of “fans” who get a kick out of spreading hate and pain. The truth is that a law cannot stop the hate that someone feels in their heart for another human being. This is a sickness and a poisoned mindset. But maybe a law will help to slow down some of this hate and cause people to not jump on negative bandwagons just to fit in with people they don’t even know.
The biggest gateway into Korean language and culture. And the most widespread lesson that has been taught seemingly is that the suicide hotline is international. You don’t have to like everyone or everything. There’s nothing wrong with having a different opinion. But there is something seriously wrong when someone becomes a bully and feels happy at other people’s misery. People used to be told that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. If you don’t have the guts to say something to someone’s face, you shouldn’t be saying it about them online.
As the public memorial for Sulli comes to an end, the reality is that someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s friend is laying in a morgue right now. A lot of tears are being shed at this moment because no one should have to be buried at the age of 25. You can’t take your negative comment(s) back, and you can’t take back the life of someone who ended their life due to the hate they had online. Before you hit send and blast out a negative message ripping someone online, think of Sulli, think of Sulli’s friends, think of Sulli’s family. Hopefully more people will start to do that so that we don’t have another story of someone from Kpop ending their life due to how they were treated in the future.