By AUBREE STAMPER, Photo Editor
K-pop fans gathered on the river walk in Detroit last Friday to remember the life of SHINee’s lead vocalist Kim Jong-hyun. The 27-year-old singer took his own life last week after a lifelong fight with depression, and fans were left heartbroken and stunned.
Fans took turns speaking about what SHINee and Jonghyun meant to them, how they felt about what happened, and how it affected them. They brought things like photos, white balloons, candles, letters, and flowers for the singer. They also expressed their hope for his peace and happiness in the afterlife.
“I hope he uses the new strength he has to look over his family,” said Zaria Phillips, 20, “He made peace with the fact that he wasn’t going to see 2018 with his members. He was ready.”
The fans laughed and cried together as they fondly shared his funniest moments and his best performances–from the “Hello Baby” episodes to the famous “Ill Brothers” skit on SNL Korea.
Vigils like this one have been held in countries all over the world from Chile, Russia, Mexico, Argentina, Panama, Philippines, Peru and many more, showing the global impact Jonghyun’s music made.
“The vigil held in New York City was so emotional,” said Twitter user @ughpinky, “People were sobbing, laughing about memories, singing along to music and comforting each other through this difficult time. The atmosphere was so kind and peaceful.”
Jonghyun was a singer-songwriter, composer, author, and radio host who debuted in the K-pop group SHINee in 2008 under SM Entertainment. SHINee is known worldwide for their powerful vocals, complex choreography, and super synchronized dancing. Some of their hit songs include “Ring Ding Dong,” “Lucifer,” and “Sherlock.”
In 2015 Jonghyun released his first solo mini-album Base which was a critically acclaimed album that he participated in the production and composition of. In 2016 he released his first studio album She Is which was mostly written and composed by Jonghyun himself as well.
During his ten years in the music industry, Jonghyun composed songs for many artists such as IU, Taemin, EXO, Lim Kim, Lee Hi, and his own group SHINee–and was the first SM artist to heavily participate in the production of an album.
Jonghyun was also a strong supporter of the LGBT community and an advocate for women’s rights, and was very open about his own mental illness which helped many people. While Korean society is still very conservative and publicly supporting such things can cause a lot of backlash, most Korean idols do not speak out about politics or controversial topics.
On Dec. 9-10 Jonghyun held a solo concert titled “INSPIRED” and shortly after that he filmed a music video for his new album that was supposed to be released in January. At the concert, he was supposed to read a teleprompter and tell the audience about this album, but he never did.
On Monday Dec. 18 Jonghyun’s sister called the police after receiving a text from her brother that read, “It’s been hard. Let me go. Tell me I’ve worked hard. This is my farewell.”
But the singer was already in cardiac arrest when the police finally found him in the Gangnam district of Seoul, and he was declared dead later that evening from carbon monoxide poisoning. Jonghyun was an organ donor so even after his death, he was able to save more lives.
Jonghyun’s close friend Nine9 released his suicide letter after talking with his family, as it was his final wish. In the letter he talks about his severe depression, his doctor, and his struggles:
“I am damaged from the inside. The depression that has been slowly eating away at me has completely swallowed me, and I couldn’t win over it… When the doctor blamed my personality with a quiet voice, I thought it was so easy to be a doctor.”
Over the three-day mourning period, many celebrities came to pay their final respects including EXO, BTS, Girls Generation, Zico, IU, NCT, Red Velvet, Super Junior, Lovelyz, the Running Man cast, ex-girlfriend Shin Se-kyung, Kang Ho-dong, and many more. Thousands of fans also came to say their final goodbye to their beloved idol.
On Dec. 21, SHINee’s Key, Onew, Taemin, and Minho as well as Super Junior’s Leeteuk, Donghae, and Eunhyuk carried Jonghyun’s casket and photo after the funeral ended. That was the last time all five SHINee members would ever be together again.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t protect you the way you protected us from our own thoughts,” said Phillips, ‘You were already an angel when you were on earth.”
SHINee member and leader Onew reminded everyone through a post on his Instagram that there’s always someone out there that loves you more than you love yourself. Since Jonghyun’s passing, fans have posted photos of the moon with a teal blue color to it, which was SHINee’s fandom color, and took it as a sign from Jonghyun that he was alright.
At the end of his final letter, Jonghyun wrote:
“It’s a miracle I lasted this far.
What more can I say? Just tell me I worked hard.
That it was good of me to come this far. That I worked hard.
Even if you can’t smile as you let me go, please don’t blame me.
I worked hard.
I really did work hard.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression and is at risk of self-harm or suicide, please seek help as soon as possible by contacting someone who specializes in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. You can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 or you can choose to chat online with someone.