Famous Korean actress and singer, Sulli, has sadly passed away on October 14th, 2019 from suicide. Over the years she has always been a main target for cyber bullying, and she often spoke out on the topic trying to bring awareness to the topic. It’s sad that no one was there to genuinely listen to her cries.
Choi Jinri, better known by her stage name Sulli was a South Korean actress, singer, and model. She started her career in 2005 as a child actress, appearing on the SBS historical K-Drama, Ballad of Seodong. Following this, she appeared in many television shows and dramas, making an appearance in the television series Love Needs A Miracle (2005) and Drama City (2007).
After signing a record deal with SM Entertainment, she debuted as a part of the five member girl group f(x) in 2009 with their debut song “Lachata”. The group achieved notorious success, with four Korean singles charting No.1 and gaining international recognition after being the first Kpop group to perform at SXSW.
Sulli’s film career progressed all throughout her activities with f(x) starring in The Pirates and Fashion King in 2014. During the press tour for The Pirates, Sulli went on a hiatus from the entertainment industry due to health issues, and following a year long absence from promoting with f(x). She officially left the group in August 2015 due to the consistent and ongoing cyberbullying she had experienced throughout her career. Between 2015 and 2017, she embarked on a number of modelling campaigns before becoming a global brand ambassador for Estée Lauder.
In 2018, she finally returned back to the music industry by featuring in Dean’s single for Dayfly and then went on to release her own single Goblin in June of 2019. Little would fans know is that would be her last message to the world following her death.
Following her departure from f(x), Sulli received renewed press attention for her unconventional persona which polarised the public’s view on her. Some members of the media branded her as “very open” and “enlightened”, while conservative media outlets considered her to be “inappropriate” and “foolish.”
Sulli was also an artist, with one of her drawings, captioned “Portrait”, being the inspiration for IU’s song “Red Queen” from her 2015 Chat-Shire album. Sulli was also the inspiration for IU’s song “Peach”.
Sulli’s persona has been mimicked on the television show, Saturday Night Live Korea. A number of media outlets attributed the backlash against Sulli to the fact that her public image was not as carefully constructed as many of her fellow peers in the idol industry were and she directly challenged societal expectations of women in Korean culture. She was often made fun of in the media for speaking out for women’s rights as Korean society has a very distinct and clear cut perception of women in the media.
Sulli spoke out against cyberbullying, a subject which affected her personally as she was often the target of online abuse for her public image. She expressed her hope that people could accept each other’s differences and said, “there are so many unique types of people in this country with so much talent and I feel like they’re wasting it by putting their energy into critiquing others like this online.”
“She wasn’t just an issue-maker but I hope she will be remembered as a women’s rights activist who was free-spirited, who could truly speak her mind,” said Kwon Ji-an, a fellow South Korean singer and painter.
In 2019, Sulli joined the JTBC2 variety program The Night of Hate Comments, which discussed celebrity’s reactions to hateful comments, malicious rumors and cyberbullying they had encountered online. On the first episode, during Sulli’s turn, she responded cheerfully to the mean spirited comments, a demeanor that gained her a label on the show, “the nuclear bomb of hate comments.”
On October 14, 2019, at approximately 3:20 p.m. KST, Sulli was found dead by her manager on the second floor of her house in Seongnam, south of Seoul. The manager reportedly visited the house when he was not able to reach her, after trying to get a hold of her in order for her to continue filming her part in the drama Persona.
While police were investigating the scene trying to find any possible evidence of a break in or murder, they found a note in Sulli’s diary that expressed her personal feelings but was confirmed to not be a suicide note. For privacy reasons, the note was not released to the public.
On October 15, police filed for an autopsy to confirm the cause of death and performed it the following morning, concluding that her body did not show any signs of death due to external force, and it is likely a suicide that occurred on the night of October 13 or the morning of October 14.
Following her death it was revealed that the main cause could’ve been the extent of the severe cyberbullying she had received online. It was also revealed that Sulli had repeatedly begged SM Entertainment to take action against the cyberbullying and hate comments, but no action was taken.
In October 2018, Sulli revealed that she was struggling with panic disorder and social phobia since she was young. Prior to her death, Sulli was suffering from severe depression and was on antidepressants.
Entertainer Hong Seok Chan, who was close to Sulli revealed that she cried out for help a year prior to her death on her private account saying, “Many celebrities, especially idols, have social media accounts but also have their own private accounts. Just up until last year, Sulli uploaded many posts expressing to her friends that she was going through a hard time. People around her worried about her and tried to protect her; they encouraged her with positive words. Recently, she was doing much better and seemed brighter and happier.”
The people around her continued to believe that Sulli was feeling better since she had returned to more activities and began posting more bright pictures to her account.
“We also had dinner after Night Of Hate Comments and we talked a lot.” he added, “Sulli received lots of advice from her seniors and a lot of people thought it was great that she would talk openly about hate comments and share her thoughts. Many people thought she had gotten better. We thought Sulli was learning to ignore the hateful comments. That’s how many of us thought, so when I heard of her passing, I couldn’t film anymore after.”
In the wake of Sulli’s death, fans flocked to the website of the presidential Blue House to file a petition urging the adoption of a real-name online comment system. “The freedom of expression is a vital value in democratic society, but insulting and hurting someone else’s dignity is beyond that limit,” said Lee Dong-gwi, a psychology professor at Yonsei University in Seoul. “There need to be far harsher penalties for those who violate that law.”
An association of South Korean entertainment management companies issued a statement on October 16th, vowing to pursue sterner legal action for “verbal violence” online.
To conclude, Sulli’s death was a major let down to many. She was one of very few idols who opened up about controversial topics and issues surrounding Korean society. We all wish that she is in a happier place now, and that her soul rests peacefully.