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Are K-pop idols sexually harassed in military? Taemin's depression sparks SHINee fan speculation

Fans were worried after it was revealed the K-pop star had depression and anxiety which had worsened in the military
UPDATED JAN 15, 2022
Taemin will be completing the rest of his military service as a social worker (@shinee/Twitter)
Taemin will be completing the rest of his military service as a social worker (@shinee/Twitter)

Trigger warning: sexual harassment and suicide

On January 14, fans were shocked when it was reported that SHINee’s Taemin was suffering from depression and anxiety. He had been diagnosed before he enlisted but it had gotten worse in the military. The K-pop star had to end up changing his position from being part of the military band to completing his mandatory military service as a social worker. While we haven’t been given a reason for the worsening of his mental health, one of Taemin’s posts has worried fans speculating if he had been sexually harassed in the army.

Taemin was often considered the baby of K-pop as he was one of the youngest idols to debut – at the age of 14. He initially had an effeminate image and his long hair had even his colleagues joking that he looked ‘girly’. He was also bullied for a while in school which had his SHINee members going to his school to defend him. Along with the additional pressure of being an idol, fans feel that despite his strong exterior, he was deeply affected by member Jonghyun’s suicide who had also suffered from depression.

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Taemin gets interviewed by the Military Magazine (Korea Military Manpower Administration/YouTube)

K-pop idols in the military

But an update from Taemin has started making the rounds on social media. In August 2021, the youngest SHINee member shared that in the military, everyone showers together and at the same time. But whenever he took a shower, everyone stared at him so he had to change his showering time. Knetizens brought back the rumors that people from his training base tried to leak how he looked naked. Even his labelmate and SuperM group member, EXO’s Baekhyun went through something similar.

Apparently, the soldiers tried to take pictures of Baekhyun naked and stared at him. We even had Super Junior’s Kyuhyun revealing that everyone stared when he took a shower and while his friends at the base tried to help, he had to ‘endure’ it. Many fans hope that the K-pop idols are simply stalked by the soldiers in their base out of awe or to observe and sell information to fans, because the other alternative is worse since such behavior could also fall into sexual harassment.


There have been a lot of activists researching the recurring cases of sexual harassment and violence among men in the South Korean military. The defence ministry and president Moon Jae-in also promised to make changes in the military to “remove the backward culture in the barracks” that have often led to deaths and desertion. We even had the Netflix K-drama ‘D.P.’ which is based on true experiences exposing the harsh reality of men who were weaker or were different from the ‘norm’ being sexually harassed in the military.


Taemin's last VLive

Whether or not this is one of the reasons for Taemin’s worsened mental health, fans hoped that the general public would not treat him too harshly since mental health is still a taboo topic in South Korea. We even had soldiers from his base commenting on the news and sharing their experiences while serving with the SHINee star. They claimed that despite taking 6-7 pills daily, Taemin always put on a strong face and treated everyone with kindness, supporting them and taking care of them. Fans also brought back one of Taemin’s last VLive before enlisting where he looked like he was holding back tears as he said, “I'm worried, scared, and anxious about the future.”

'Rooting for you'

Worried fans have been sending Taemin supportive messages on social media like, “Wishing the best for taemin, hope his mental health keeps being prioritized and he feels better soon there are many people rooting for you our dear taemin, we wish you the best we know you can overcome this please everyone send lots of love and support his way,” and “I really just hope treatment goes well for taemin and he is receiving loads of support and love from everyone around him im wishing him the best on his road with treatment.”

One Shawol was anxious, “I just hope he's not getting bullied or abused since Korean military conditions are seemed to be very harsh and inconsiderate of mental health. And given his past hope he's not getting traumatized or having flashbacks. I love you taemin. You've made it this far you can go more!” Another fan said, “There was never an announcement on it but i think many his fans, myself included, have been fearing it… i think no one ever openly voiced the concerns in hopes that what we feared wouldn’t be true…”

One Shawol shared, “Dude that D.P netflix drama really traumatized me like fr there's a lot of abuse going on in this places along with sexual harassment, I'm glad they transferred him since this is being going on for months now from what I know, wish him the best:(.” Another added, “No because it so unfair i remember when his military base was leaking how he looks naked and apparently staring also like how baekhyun had to shower alone cause of harassment. idc the military should never be a compulsion dc what anyone says.”






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