Who is Jonghyun? SHINee fans hail mental health advocate, LGBT ally: 'Much more than a suicide case'

An article linking BTS' UNICEF campaign and Jonghyun's death has fans angry and uncomfortable


                            Who is Jonghyun? SHINee fans hail mental health advocate, LGBT ally: 'Much more than a suicide case'
SHINee's Jonghyun has been vocal about his support to the LGBT+ community, women's rights, political issues and much more (@SHINee/Twitter)
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Trigger warning - suicide

While Jonghyun holds a special place in fans' and SHINee’s hearts, he has unfortunately been reduced to his death by non-fans and the mainstream media. In fact, just last year, a musician came under fire for using the late K-pop idol’s funeral photo as a prop in his music video. And now fans are angry that an article in the New Yorker has used Jonghyun’s suicide as clickbait to talk about BTS’ achievements.

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In the New Yorker article, the writer states, “In 2017–the same year that Kim Jonghyun, a singer in the K-pop group SHINee, died by suicide–BTS launched a campaign with UNICEF to combat violence against children and teens.” With BTS’ campaign being launched in November 2017 and Jonghyun’s unfortunate passing taking place in December 2017, the linking of the two unrelated events have Shawols (SHINee’s fandom) angry and ARMY (BTS’ fandom) uncomfortable. Well, Jonghyun is now trending as fans have taken to talking about his achievements,

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Jonghyun was an LGBT ally and mental health advocate

Along with being a popular soloist and part of SHINee, one of the biggest K-pop groups, Jonghyun was also known for his kindness and philanthropy from talking about women’s rights to political issues. The idol proved to be an LGBT+ ally when he participated in a protest for the human rights of the sexual minority in South Korea in 2013. Jonghyun changed his Twitter profile picture to a message spreading awareness on the issues of the LGBT+. His move was invaluable as the situation went viral on Korean social media. The message was written by a transwoman who also shared her conversation with Jonghyun.

The SHINee star had said to her, “I'm sending you a message to avoid getting unwanted attention with my tweets or being harmed by issues. Of course, it is not comparable to the emotions you are feeling.” He also added, "I support that you raise your voice and say being different doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. I don't think you need to be comforted or worry because you are that strong.” He had further written, “I support you. I feel a great sense of loss towards the world which doesn’t allow ‘differences’ as a celebrity, another minority in a different meaning.”

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Despite succumbing to depression and the struggles of fame, Jonghyun had also been an advocate of mental health. His death had also opened up a debate on celebrity suicides and the harsh nature of the K-pop industry that does not allow mental health care which has now changed for good with idols now being allowed to go on hiatus due to mental health issues. During his radio show ‘Blue Night’, Jonghyun often spoke up about his own fight with depression and would give advice to listeners. A lot of fans who struggled with mental health and almost gave up have shared that the ‘Blue Night’ episodes were what gave them hope.

With Jonghyun being first and foremost an artist, he also left behind several records. He was the first SM artist to write and compose an album despite the label being known for not giving creative freedom to their artists. During his reign, his solo music had often been praised by the Korean media for being unique and expressing his individual color. He had also become the first male SM soloist and fourth K-pop soloist in general to debut on Billboard 200 with his last album ‘Poet | Artist’. While his songs were exciting and quintessential K-pop, Jonghyun would also inject real-world issues and the pain he went through into his songs as seen in sombre tracks like ‘Lonely’, ‘End of Day’, ‘Breathe’ and ‘Let me out’ which is a tear-jerker.

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‘He changed the industry in a positive light’

With the BTS article now trending, fans have taken to bringing back Jonghyun’s legacy, “First of all, Kim Jonghyun is much more than a suicide case. If you are going to write about him, then let it be about his legacy as an artist. It’s unnecessary to specifically correlate BTS’s UNICEF campaign to his passing.” Another said, “When will the media (journalists, the news etc) start talking about how jonghyun was a huge advocate of mental health and how he changed the industry in a positive light, how he still has a stable and trustworthy fanbase because what he created is so strong and impactful.” One fan wrote, “If you want to talk about paving the way then lets talk about jonghyun being one of the very first people in kpop to openly advocate for mental health, support a trans student, talk about women's rights and overall use his platform as a voice for those who need it.”

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Another commented, “Oh no the kpop fans are mean for demanding basic respect for jonghyun.” Fans are also bringing back threads that talked about Jonghyun's political activism as he spoke up on sensitive issues like war crimes, domestic violence, reprimanded censorship of school textbooks, women's empowerment, "As promised , here is a thread of moments Jonghyun used his voice to bring awareness on social issues + his proper apologies since apparently stan twitter only ever talks abt him being a trans ally & non fans wanna discredit everything he fought for in the past."

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