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A farewell to Kim Jong-hyun from K-pop fans in India

The world outside of the K-pop community came to know of Kim Jong-hyun as a 27-year-old entertainer who was devoured by the pressures of stardom. He died on December 18.

music Updated: Dec 24, 2017 15:22 IST
Monami Gogoi
Monami Gogoi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kim Jong-hyun,Kim Jong-hyun suicide,Kim Jong-hyun death
A portrait of Kim Jong-hyun, the lead singer of top South Korean boy band SHINee, is seen on an altar during a memorial service for him in Seoul, South Korea, December 19, 2017. (Yonhap/via REUTERS)

On December 18, K-pop community in India woke up to the wedding announcement of Taeyang, member of the iconic South Korean band Bigbang. By 4 pm, happiness had turned to despair as reports of the death of Kim Jong-hyun, the lead singer of popular K-pop band Shinee, started surfacing.

His body was found in a hotel room in Seoul on Monday in what police said was a suicide. In a suicide note later released by his close friend, he said, “Depression that gnawed on me slowly has finally engulfed me entirely.”

Fans received the news with disbelief and denial.

Notes for the late South Korean band SHINee singer Kim Jong-Hyun are seen on a whiteboard during a memorial held by the boyband's Thai fanclub at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok on December 21, 2017. (AFP)

“I was searching for an official statement from the agency; I refused to believe the media outlets... I resorted to the fans from South Korea. I went on Twitter and searched for the fan sites, they were all waiting outside the hospital for an update on his health,” said Deblina Ghosh, who has been listening to K-pop since 2006.

The world outside of the K-pop community came to know of Kim Jong-hyun as a 27-year-old entertainer who was devoured by the pressures of stardom.

But this was not the way fans remember him.

Fans of Kim Jong-hyun, lead singer of top South Korean boy band SHINee, react as a hearse carrying his coffin leaves during his funeral at a hospital in Seoul, South Korea, December 21, 2017. (REUTERS)

“Jong-hyun, his voice, his bubbly personality, everything about him made us feel like if we ever bump into him on the road, he’ll smile and start off a chat. If you see the videos of him and the fans, it’s so endearing the way he looked at us,” said Deblina.

Tamar Herman, a K-pop columnist for Billboard, explained that K-pop artists gave names to their fandoms, dedicated songs to fans and frequently referred to them as their inspiration, describing how the singers build a connection with fans.

“The way K-pop stars craft a bond in a way few western artistes do, where the audience is described by the artistes not only as supporters but also part of the experience the idol has in the journey of his career. For many fans and artistes, it grows into a bond- over years of ups and downs - that is very tight, and when tragedy of this scale strikes, it’s extremely difficult.

In a suicide note released by Jong-hyun’s close friend, he said, “Depression that gnawed on me slowly has finally engulfed me entirely.” (REUTERS)

“How do you rectify your sorrow at the loss of someone you have cheered from thousands of miles away for a long time, usually years... Who has made you feel special through his music and his words of inspiration and gratitude?” she said.

The fan community in India huddled together to overcome the setback.

On Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, fans started posting on issues surrounding mental illness.

“In group chats, if someone was not responding, we would call them up to check if they were doing okay,” said another fan from Mumbai, who didn’t wish to be named.

In Kolkata, screening of a band’s performance was postponed.

“In the light of the recent events, EXO’s Exordium screening has been postponed. We are all grieving for Jong-hyun and we won’t be able to give a definite rescheduled day as of now,” read the message on Facebook and Instagram pages of the EXO fanclub in India.

In Mumbai, a Christmas party organised by a fan club, India-Korea Friends Mumbai (IKFM), was cancelled and rescheduled with a prayer service.

Prayer services have taken place in Chennai and Manipur. On Sunday, prayer meetings will also be held in Delhi, Bhubaneswar, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata.

“We are holding a memorial service for him. It didn’t seem right to celebrate but we will celebrate his life and his words,” said Nishi Mhapankar, a 29-year-old software engineer who runs the IKFM.

For many fans in India, Shinee was one of the first bands that led them to K-pop.

Fans of late South Korean singer Kim Jong-hyun weep during his funeral in Seoul. (AP)

“Shinee introduced me to the world of K-pop. They showed me K-pop meant more than flashy clothes, synchronized choreography and dramatic concert stages. It also meant bonding with artistes from a far away land with nothing but your feelings, breaking the language barrier,” said Nishi.

Jong-hyun was open about his depression and his battle with it and encouraged his fans to continue their personal fights.

“For someone who was going through a pretty bad phase in life, and hovering on the thin line to stumble into the dark hole of depression, it was Jong-hyun who saved me; through his music, through his late night radio talks where he opened about himself. It was not my friends or family but a star hundreds of miles away who gave me the courage to get a hold of my life and get it back on track. Nothing will fill up the hole he has left, but his music will always be in my heart forever,” said Shriya Banerjee, a 27-year old business analyst from Kolkata.

“His voice had a calming effect on people. And now, we won’t see him anymore. I never got the chance to see him in person,” lamented Deblina.

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