Fans Mourn Kim Jong-hyun, a K-Pop Singer Whose Style Was Instantly Recognizable
Posted December 19, 2017 4:02 p.m. EST
Fans of the South Korean singer Kim Jong-hyun were in mourning on Tuesday, a day after he killed himself and left behind a note that said he was overcome by depression, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.
Fans of the singer, who was 27 and known by his stage name Jonghyun, flocked to pay their respects or set up vigils outside of Asan Medical Center in Seoul, where he was taken to the hospital on Monday and pronounced dead, the news agency reported.
The police in Gangnam, where Kim’s body was discovered by his sister in an apartment, said there would be no autopsy because it seemed “clear that the deceased took his own life.”
Yonhap reported that the singer had sent a text message to his sister saying, “Please let me go. Tell me I did well” and “final farewell.” It also quoted an Instagram post from Jang Hee-yeon, a friend and the lead singer of the rock group Dear Cloud, that said Jonghyun had written to her about his struggles with depression.
“I’m broken from the inside. The depression that has slowly nibbled me away has now devoured me, and I couldn’t overcome it,” he wrote, according to her Instagram post.
The singer also appeared to regret his life in the public spotlight, Yonhap reported. “Becoming famous was probably not my life. They tell me that’s why I’m having a hard time ... Why did I choose that? It’s funny that I’m able to endure this much.”
Kim performed both as a solo artist and with the group SHINee, which exemplified the genre known as K-pop, known for its elaborate choreography, fashionable, skin-baring outfits and different vocal styles.
Fans left messages of condolence and mourning on the SHINee Twitter feed.
“The online community really came together to share their grief,” Jeff Benjamin, the K-pop columnist for Billboard and digital editor for Fuse TV, said in an interview on Tuesday.
Fueled by the rise of social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, K-pop groups have grown in popularity, managing to transcend borders, despite language barriers, to spread in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas.
In 2011, aspiring singers from 16 countries competed in finals of the K-Pop World Festival competition in the South Korean town of Changwon, a confirmation of how widely their country’s cultural export had spread.
Kim’s death leaves the loss of an artist unique in the genre. SHINee, founded in 2008 with a rhythm and blues sound, remained unusual because its five members stayed together for so long. “SHINee were the exception to the rule,” Benjamin said in an interview Tuesday.
Kim, unlike many K-pop stars who branch off into multifaceted endeavors such as fashion and acting, remained focused on music as a singer, songwriter and producer, a rare combination in 2008, Benjamin said.
In 2016, Kim released a solo album called “She Is,” which Benjamin described as a “fascinating” range of pop music, including an Elvis-type crooning.
“He had a piercing belt that I would instantly recognize,” Benjamin said. “It is definitely an accomplished work.”
This year, SHINee toured the United States for the first time. In an interview with CNN in May after performing in Dallas, Los Angeles and Canada, Kim said:
“We’ve come to the U.S. for fan meets before, but concerts make me a bit more nervous and excited. I hope our fans will be able to make great memories with us through the music and performances we show on stage.”