It’s another sunny day in the Seoul metro area. The day is cool with people walking around in heavy overcoats and their hands in their pockets to stay warm. People are outside smoking, couples holding hands, everything seeming like another normal day. But for a few people, you can argue that there is nothing normal or natural about today. It is reported that early this morning, before many in Seoul were riding in a bus, subway or were in a car on their way to work or school, a small group of people quietly gathered for a funeral. The funeral of another KPop star. Another Kpop star dead of suicide before the age of 30.
This death was sadly not the first, and sadly may not be the last. Perhaps instead of Surviving R. Kelly, there should be a show about Surviving Kpop. In my lifetime, I’ve only met 1 person who was in Kpop. She seems normal and happy. She also just happened to have left Kpop years ago and hasn’t looked back. When I talk to my Korean friends about life within the culture, it is always agreed on that people are the happiest when they escape the Korean bubble. When they are freed from the pressurs and pain that comes from being inside of the pressure cooker known as publicized Korean society. We also talk about how great it would be if more and more Koreans would escape the bubble and experience the freedom that comes from not trying to conform to the pressures that Korean society brings.
One of the saddest things that happens when someone in Kpop dies is the online banter that goes on. People want to be the first to put out a blog post, YouTube video or to give their feelings as to why something happened. All of this usually leads to arguments and even more chaos as the first news stories are not always the most accurate news stories. Goo Hara was found dead on Sunday night and was laid to rest on Wednesday morning. As of right now, her death is being blamed on mourning the suicide of her best friend Sulli that happened about a month ago, being turned into a Me Too movement rally about the treatment of women in Korea, calls for changes in Kpop to start right away, calls for more mental health awareness in Korea and so on and so forth.
So what is the answer? As far as I know, the exact contents of her suicide note are not known, and may never be known to any of us. While people may guess and give their theories as to what could have and what should have happened, the truth is that Hara is not here to talk to us about what was really happening in her mind last weekend. We really don’t know what actually sparked this. As I write this, her public memorial is still open and will remain open until midnight tonight. At that time, the flowers will be taken down, as well as her picture. Given this fact, and the fact that she was laid to rest today, now is not the time for people to argue about her death. Do changes need to be made in Kpop, and in Korea in general? Yes. Absolutely. But does her family and friends need close comfort right now? Yes. Absolutely. It can be forgotten that these stars that are called idols by the public, are just people, everyday people. They have family and friends who love them and care for them. They have people who have known them since before the fame who need love and comfort.
Death is an emotional thing. Especially when it happens to someone who is so young and who we feel had so much more life left to live. As a global society, we are recognizing more that depression is real and that it effects people more and more of all ages, races and financial backgrounds. There is more recognition that words and actions of others do hurt and can cause deep scars for a long, long time that are not visible to the human eye. While we tend to want to blame someone and bring as much justice as we can to the world, sometimes we forget to take time to mourn the loses of those we care about. There is nothing wrong with feeling sad over the loss of a loved one, or for being angry when someone dies so young. Usually, we make better decisions when we take time to mourn and can regroup emotionally. We need to remember the family members of these young stars who suffer the most when these tragedies occur. No parent should have to watch as their child gets put into a casket, or be there to receive their child’s ashes. And if the families of such ones do go online to be reminded of their children’s life and accomplishments, they shouldn’t have to see a lot of arguing and finger pointing going on in the comment section of post and videos. Just the love and respect that their children had earned during their lives.
One of the saddest parts of this day was seeing a video about where a fan asked the question, “who’s next?”. While I hope there won’t be a next. a lot of changes will have to take place to ensure that there isn’t a next. But for now, instead of taking time to point fingers and to blame others, perhaps it’s time to reflect on comforting the family and friends who had to bury yet another person before they turned 30. Changes will have to come soon because Kpop, as well as the families that send their children into this world, can’t take more of this. For the sake of everyone involved, I hope that the changes are permanent and are based, not on saving face and saving money, but on saving lives and saving friends, family and fans from the grief that comes each time a story like this breaks, not only the news, but the hearts of many all over the world.