Yesterday, police in Gangnam district of Seoul, South Korea found 27-year-old Kim Jonghyun, an LGBTQ ally and lead singer of the popular K-Pop band SHINee, dead by suicide in his studio apartment. The Jonghyun suicide compelled his friend, Jang Hee-yeon — a fellow musician from the band Dear Cloud (a.k.a. Nine9) — to release Jong-hyun’s final text messages to her, revealing the singer’s ongoing battle with depression.
Heartbreaking text messages were sent before the Jonghyun suicide
Jonghyun’s final text messages to Hee-yeon, which were released with his family’s permission, read in part:
I am broken from the inside. The depression that slowly gnawed away at me has finally swallowed me whole. And I could not defeat it….
I wanted people to notice but no one did. They’ve never even met me so of course they don’t know I exist….
If you ask why I die I would answer I am exhausted. I have suffered and pondered. I never learned how to turn this exhausting pain into bliss….
It’s so odd that it hurts so much. People who have it worse than me live fine, people who are weaker than me carry on fine. Maybe that’s not true….
Is it so wrong to hurt so much because of that, do I need to have a more dramatic reason? A more specific reason? Clashing with the world was never meant for me. The life of fame was never meant for me.
That’s all the reason why it hurts. Because I’m famous. Why did I choose this. It’s so funny. It’s a wonder I lasted so long.
What can I say. Just tell me I’ve done well. That this is good enough. That I’ve worked hard. Even if you can’t smile don’t fault me on my way. You did well, you worked hard. Goodbye.
Hee-yeon said of her friend’s final days:
For a period of time, Jonghyun shared his inner dark stories with me. He was struggling on daily basis.
When I suspicious of his emotional wellbeing, I let his family know and tried to direct him to the right path, but in the end, it just delayed his final days, and it was not enough to stop him….
I really hope that everyone finally knows that Jonghyun was not alone, and I also wanted to say thanks to him and that he had done really well. Please tell him that he did good, and a job well-done, and thanks for enduring his pain ’til now.
Beautiful Jonghyun, I love you lots and I will continue to love you a lot. Please don’t get hurt and rest in peace up there.
In 2013, Jonghyun publicly supported a bisexual transgender student at Korea University who had posted handwritten messages around campus criticizing societal stigma against LGBT people. He changed his Twitter profile picture to a part of one of the student’s signs that read. “I am not OK.”
He also wrote to the student:
I support you. As an entertainer, as a minority in a different definition who deals with the public, I feel a great sense of loss in this world where we don’t admit differences. Of course, this can’t be comparable to your feeling. I support you shouting squarely that difference isn’t wrong. I don’t think you are a person who needs other’s consolation or concern. You are as strong as much. I wish you stay healthy, and have a warm end of the year.
The student shared his supportive messages on social media. Online conservatives reportedly began to swarm his online fan page, leaving comments against the singer for his support.
Earlier this year, Jonghyun released a wistful single for a song called “Lonely” whose chorus went: “Baby I’m so Lonely, so lonely / I feel like I’m alone. / I don’t want to make it obvious to you / I’m used to just holding it in / Understand me.”
The music video for the song shows the singer in grey and isolated scenes as he counts the days by making ink marks on his arms. He eventually fills up a bathtub and slips under the water before appearing alone on a beach.
Some see the song and video as evidence of Jonghyun’s depression and note that his family, fans and close friends were both aware of his depressed mental state long before the Jonghyun suicide.
His band SHINee completed their first North American tour and released their fifth full-length album, Five, earlier this year.