Choi Jin-ri, best known by her stage name, Sulli, was a singer and actress in South Korea and is best known as one of the members of the Kpop girl group “f(x)” under S.M. Entertainment. On October 14th, 2019, she was found dead in her home by her manager, who was trying to contact her but did not receive a response. The police have stated that she had committed suicide due to her severe depression, but the exact cause of her death is still under investigation. She was only 25 years old.
Those of you who follow the Kpop industry might know that Sulli has suffered from extreme online bullying and harassment, which is one of the biggest causes of her depression. She was a very bright and outspoken woman who openly talked about women’s rights issues and sexuality. One of the biggest reasons for her receiving hate was due to her saying that women should be able to dress as they please as long as they are comfortable with themselves. Specifically, she was in what was called the “no bra” movement in SK, in which women went braless as a way to say that they are in control of the expectations and judgment of their bodies and that no one has the right to tell them to change.
Due to this, Sulli had posted pictures without wearing her bra on social media, the first being on Instagram. This had sparked a lot of hate and violence towards her. This included calling her derogatory terms such as saying that she was the “national prostitute” and an “attention whore,” that she should be dead for not wearing a bra, and even spread false rumors about her and her family. The level of hate that she had received caused her to not only leave the girl group but also decided to go on a hiatus as a celebrity. In addition, Sulli had posted Instagram videos in which she was crying and saying, “I’m not a bad person.”
The tragic part of it all was that Sulli had been open about her depression and her exhaustion with the industry and the haters. She had stated several times that she had felt alone, scared and was under pressure, and the comments she received had made her depression worse. She said that she did everything she was told to do when she was an actress and in the girl group without questioning it, causing her self-esteem to go down. While she had mentioned that she was depressed and that these comments were severely hurting her, many people told her that she was trying to seek attention, instead of trying to help her cope with her mental health. The result of this was her decision to end her life.
After the news had come out, many people were in shock and it was trending multiple hashtags all day (especially on Twitter) as a way to say that Sulli was an angel who deserved so much more than what she had gotten. Many started to advocate the severity of mental health issues and commented that this was the result of sending someone unnecessary hate. Some started to tweet the National Suicidal Prevention hotlines for each country as a way to state that no one is alone and does not deserve to go through such trauma.
While it is good that people are taking matters into their own hands about this situation, it is important to note that when there have been cases of celebrity suicides due to depression, the mourning only lasts so long, until people forget what had happened and continue to cyber-bully and send hate to other celebrities who have done nothing wrong. The cyber-bullies are not the only ones who are at fault because the companies/labels the celebrities are signed onto overwork their artists to their breaking point, but do not try to help them until it’s too late. Even when something does happen, everyone (including the labels) mourn for a week or two, but then the same process repeats itself.
Mental health is not an issue that should be taken so lightly. It could be a life-threatening issue as seen with Sulli. There has been such a stigma behind mental health even though it is almost 2020 and everyone is openly discussing this topic. When I had first heard the news about Sulli’s death, I was in complete shock. As someone who enjoyed her music, I was not able to digest what had happened. Once the situation had sunk in, I had completely broken down for her. As someone who’s in her early 20s, like Sulli, I felt heartbroken that she had to go through such immense pain for standing up for what she thought was right. I had thought about how she was just a young girl with so much potential, going after her dreams, but that same dream had become her worst nightmare. At that moment, all I could think about was how someone had lost a sister, daughter, and/or a friend due to the cruelty of society. All the celebrities and idols we see on TV and on the Internet aren’t different from the rest of us. Just because they are under the spotlight and have a smile on their faces does not mean that they are also happy on the inside. They are also human beings who feel pain and sadness.
Sulli’s death should be a reminder to everyone that as people we are not immune to everything. Before writing a hateful comment, think to yourself about how you would feel if someone had told you that you were a terrible person who deserved to die. Take a moment to put yourself in their shoes and think about if you would be okay if someone said the same thing to you. For anyone who has said something spiteful to another person, celebrity or not, own up to your mistakes and learn from it. Once a life is gone, there is no way to bring them back.
Sulli will always be in our hearts and we all hope that she is in a better place. As a way of respect, many celebrities in the South Korean industry have canceled their shows and have made a tribute to Sulli for all her contributions. My condolences go out to her family, friends, group members, and her fans.