Star commits suicide in Korean pop’s Human Rights Crisis:
South Korean police ruled the death of 25-year-old Choi Jin-ri, known by her stage name Sulli, a suicide on Tuesday after announcing the discovery of a note in her apartment, where her brother found her body on Monday.
Sulli was a member of the blockbuster Korean pop, or K-pop, act F(x) until 2015 when she left the group to pursue a solo career. She began her entertainment career as an actress at age 10 and had a long documented history of depression and mental health struggles.
Sulli’s suicide follows the failed suicide attempt of Goo Ha-ra, a former member of the K-pop girl group Kara, in May and the suicide of Kim Jong-hyun, vocalist for the boy group SHINee, in 2017.
Goo apologized profusely to her fans after surviving her suicide attempt and has faced, like most young Korean entertainers online, abuse for years.
Other Korean pop stars have faced a host of allegations of improprieties and concerning behavior, most prominently Seungri, a former member of one of Korea’s most popular groups, Big Bang, who is currently facing charges of having arranged prostitution services at a night club in which he had ownership.
Multiple reports documenting the K-pop industry since it became an international sensation in the late 2000s and early 2010s document grueling lifestyles for the children who grow up into the pop industry, many tethered to over-decade-long contracts that control nearly every aspect of their lives.
The children study and practice singing and dancing skills for long days at training camps before being launched into “idol” superstardom.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child designates an obligation to state parties to “take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.” South Korea ratified the convention in 1991.
According to South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo, Sulli’s brother, who also managed her career, found her body in her home on Monday afternoon local time. On Tuesday, police revealed they had found what appeared to be a suicide note; authorities did not provide the text of the note, noting only that she stated in it that she was “suffering” and left “negative messages.”
Her brother confirmed that Sulli had endured “severe depression” for years. Police have not identified a cause of death.
A lifetime in the spotlight had apparently contributed to her depression. She began her career as a ten-year-old actress in a Korean soap opera before joining F(x) at age 15, meaning she did not participate in the customary K-pop “boot camp” childhood that many others do before joining a group.
The Jakarta Post noted that, upon her departure from the group in 2015, she said that she “did not know why I had to do certain things,” apparently alluding to her entertainment career, and that “at some point, I realized [that this was not fit for me].”
Sulli reportedly faced severe online verbal abuse for attempting a bolder personality upon leaving the girl group, dating men older than her and taking photos while not wearing a bra.
Much of the criticism against her would target her feminist stances and seemingly liberal (for Korea) personal lifestyle.
Following her suicide, Korean outlets revealed, citing anonymous sourcing within the industry, that Sulli had demanded her record label take legal action against online bullies.