K-Pop Star's Death Brings New Scrutiny to Industry

Sulli, 25, appears to have committed suicide
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2019 8:53 AM CDT
K-Pop Star's Death Brings New Scrutiny to Industry
In this Sept. 30, 2015, photo, South Korean pop star and actress Sulli poses during the K-Beauty Close-Up event in Seoul, South Korea.   (Jang Se-young/Newsis via AP)

Her name was Choi Jin-ri, but she was better known to her legions of fans in South Korea and elsewhere as Sulli. The 25-year-old actress and former K-pop star was found dead in her home near Seoul on Monday in what police say was an apparent suicide, reports the Yonhap news agency. Sulli's death already has focused attention on the enormous pressures on K-pop stars, an issue Sulli had spoken out about. Details:

  • Her death: Sulli's manager found her body in her home in Seongnam, south of the capital. "Choi seemed to have lived alone in the house," said a police official. "It seems that she took her own life, but we are also looking into other possibilities." No suicide note has been found.
  • Her fame: Sulli was a child actor before joining the K-pop group f(x) in 2009; both she and the band became household names. She left the group in 2015 to focus on acting and a solo singing career, reports Reuters.

  • Her struggles: Sulli spoke publicly about being mentally and physically exhausted as early as 2014 from the pressures of performing and the constant deluge of online abuse, per the Washington Post. Last year, she did something few in her genre have done by publicly discussing her mental health issues, including panic disorder and social phobia, reports the Korea Times. "Even close people left me," she said. "I was hurt by them and felt there was nobody who understands me, which made me fall apart." The disclosure came as part of a reality program in which K-pop stars talked about the online abuse they had to endure.
  • Her defiance: "She was one of the idols who decided to live her life in the way she wanted to and that didn't always sit well with the general public," says music journalist Taylor Glasby, per the BBC. "She clapped back and she wouldn't take people's narrow-mindedness." For instance, Sulli was known for posting photos of herself wearing a top but no bra—she said she was simply more comfortable that way—which drew much attention and criticism. As recently as a month ago, her breasts were accidentally exposed in an Instagram stream.
  • Other incidents: If suicide is confirmed, Sulli would not be the first K-pop star to die that way. She was friends with the hugely popular male star Jong-hyun, who killed himself in 2017. In May of this year, former K-pop performer Goo Hara apologized to fans she posted "Goodbye" online and then was found unconscious in her home, notes CNN.
  • The pressure: CNN has this nugget on the pressures put on K-pop celebrities from an early age: "Many of its stars—known as idols—train for years, honing their singing, dancing and acting skills, while also learning other Asian languages, before they are even allowed to debut their first song."
(More K-Pop stories.)

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