Following the shocking death of former f(x) member Sulli, a discussion has been ignited regarding mental health and how online bullying or hate culture on social media has affected many South Korean stars.
The singer-actress was found unconscious in her home on October 14 at around 3 o'clock in the afternoon. While her agency, SM Entertainment, has not revealed the cause of her death, authorities are looking at the possibility that Sulli may have committed suicide.
Sulli, whose real name is Choi Jin-ri previously spoke about her problems with mental health. She was also under high scrutiny for being one of those K-Pop idols that defied the norms and didn't stick by the rules that are standard among idols.
"She expressed her views about what was intrinsically wrong in our society about how female stars are supposed to behave," Professor Yunkim Ji-yeong, an expert on Korean gender issues at Konkuk University told The Guardian.
Park Jong-seok, head doctor at Yonsei Bom psychiatric clinic in Seoul, told Korea Times that the depression and anxiety that many idols suffer are brought about by the rigorous training schemes that they go through at such a young age. Many of the idols who make their debut suffer from mental health problems due to intense exposure to the public.
"They go through adolescence without experiencing genuine friendships and stability with peer groups," Park said.
The K-Pop industry in itself is cut-throat and high-pressure, but the fandom that follows it also factors into the struggles of many celebrities. Singer Nam Tae-hyun also revealed that he once considered taking his life due to negative comments being thrown at him on social media.
In a statement, Nam wrote that he does not want to lose any more friends or colleagues because of hurtful and discouraging comments
"Just like you all, people who work as 'celebrities' are people, too," Nam wrote, as quoted by Allkpop. He added that while it's easy for some to say that they should just avoid reading comments, it's difficult for them to do so especially when their names pop up in search rankings and they get talked about.
The K-Pop industry has lost many of its young stars due to suicide and some celebrities have even come out about their struggles with depression and anxiety. In December 2017, SHINee member Kim Jong-hyun died committing suicide.
The death of Sulli intensified calls for the South Korean government to take action against online bullying. Recently, there has been a petition to have users register their real names first before they can comment on popular internet portals. The national assembly is said to be discussing the bill at present.