Fans, entertainers mourn loss of Sulli

Singer and actress Sulli (above) challenged the conservative standards of South Korean society with her views.
Singer and actress Sulli (above) challenged the conservative standards of South Korean society with her views. PHOTO: JELLY_JILLI/ INSTAGRAM

Many believe the K-pop star was affected by malicious online comments and are starting a petition for a mandate on the use of real names for such posts

Singer and actress Sulli, who was found dead at her home on Monday, will have a private funeral.

Her agency, SM Entertainment, said the venue will not be disclosed in order to keep fans and reporters away.

Asking the media to accept this arrangement with a "generous heart", it added that her family wants "Sulli's last journey" to be "beautiful".

While her funeral will be private, her agency said in a tweet yesterday that in accordance with Sulli's family's wishes, fans can pay their condolences at Sinchon Severance Hospital in Seoul on Tuesday and Wednesday.

According to Seongnam Fire Department, the 25-year-old former member of South Korean girl group f(x), said to be suffering from depression, was already dead when paramedics arrived on the scene.

It had sent an ambulance to her home when it received a call from Sulli's manager at 3.20pm on Monday. He had visited her house as he could not contact her after they last spoke the day before.

The paramedics noted that she showed signs of cardiac arrest and the case was handed over to the police.

According to JTBC Newsroom, the police have found a notepad filled with Sulli's handwritten comments about her life, at her home.

The property showed no signs of a break-in by outsiders and police are suspecting suicide as the cause of death.

It is believed that Sulli, whose real name was Choi Jin-ri, was working up to the day before her death, having been scheduled to shoot an advertisement for bag brand Stretch Angels.

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Her death has led to other artists pressing the pause button for now, with Amber Liu, her bandmate in f(x), tweeting that she is suspending upcoming activities.

Fellow SM Entertainment groups Super Junior axed their comeback live broadcast on Monday, while SuperM put on hold work on the SuperM The Beginning show.

Her death has also prompted an outpouring of grief online.

So sad, so sad, so sad. I hope all those battling depression choose themselves and give themselves a chance

MANDOPOP STAR JOLIN TSAI on Sulli’s alleged suicide

Former Kara member Goo Ha-ra, who herself was warded in May after her manager found her unconscious at home, wrote: "In that world, I hope she can do whatever she wants."

Actor Ahn Jae-hyun, who is locked in a bitter divorce fight with his wife Ku Hye-sun, posted: "It's not real right? I have no grasp of reality because I take too much medicine, I'm the one who is strange right?"

Peach (2012), a song by singer-actress IU, known to be a close friend of Sulli's, has re-entered music charts in South Korea as IU had previously talked about how she wrote the song while thinking of Sulli.

And Mandopop queen Jolin Tsai posted on Chinese microblogging site Weibo: "So sad, so sad, so sad. I hope all those battling depression choose themselves and give themselves a chance."

The health of celebrities in the competitive world of South Korean entertainment is a cause for concern among fans, who have blasted their management agencies, especially SM Entertainment, for not taking adequate care of their artists.

Singer Jonghyun of boy band Shinee, also from SM Entertainment, took his own life in 2017 after a battle with depression.

Fans, who believe that Sulli was affected by malicious online comments, are starting a petition, asking the government to mandate that netizens use their real names when they post comments.

The entertainer took a break from show business in 2014, citing hate messages and rumours about her life.

Mina, a member of popular girl group Twice, and girl group Momoland's Yeonwoo were also in the news recently over their battles with anxiety disorder.

Sulli, who debuted in 2009 at age 15 with f(x), was known as one of the great beauties of K-pop with her tall frame and fair skin.

While she was popular, she was controversial because of her outspoken nature and often attracted negative comments on her Instagram account, which has over six million followers.

She challenged the conservative standards of South Korean society with her views. She advocated going bra-less and was one of the few celebrities who openly declared her support and joy when South Korea struck down its ban on abortion.

She also complained about gaze rape - excessive gazing that makes one feel violated and uncomfortable - in an Instagram broadcast in April.

She was also one of the rare idols to date openly and posted photos of herself kissing her former boyfriend, hip-hop artist Choiza.

Idols in South Korean entertainment are generally expected to maintain a squeaky-clean image, one free of romantic relationships. Most also shy away from commenting on divisive social issues to avoid alienating fans.

In an obituary, Billboard magazine called Sulli, who rebelled on both those fronts, "an outspoken K-pop star in an industry that would have preferred she stayed quiet".

Sulli's death is the latest bombshell to land in South Korean entertainment this year, as the industry has been rocked since January with a constant stream of revelations about alleged drug use, illegal gambling, bribery and sexual crimes by artists, from former BigBang singer Seungri to former FT Island member Choi Jong-hoon.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2019, with the headline 'Fans, entertainers mourn loss of Sulli'. Print Edition | Subscribe