One year ago today, Oct. 14, the Korean entertainment industry and fans all over the world were shocked when K-pop star and actress Sulli, former member of girl group f(x), died.
Sulli (real name: Choi Jinri), 25, was found dead in her home in Seongnam City, South Korea by her manager at about 3:20 p.m. Korea time on Oct. 14, 2019, a tragic ending to a celebrity who clamored for public acceptance and spoke her mind but became a victim of online hate comments and suffered from depression.
Fans and celebrities mourned her death especially by her close friend Goo Hara, who wrote on Instagram, “Jin-ri can do whatever she wants in that world.” Just a little over a month later, she would be found dead on Nov. 24, 2019, following Sulli’s tragic path.
SM Entertainment, Sulli’s agency, announced her passing on Oct. 15: “The female artist Sulli has left us forever. We are extremely sorrowful to announce such sudden sad news to fans,” Dispatch reported.
It was concluded that Sulli took her own life after forensic experts held an autopsy and said “no suspicious signs of murder were found.”
A three-day mourning was held for Sulli. Fans paid tribute to her by visiting the Severance Hospital funeral hall in Seoul on Oct. 15 and 16. Her private funeral ceremony was held on Oct. 17 attended by family, friends and colleagues including her former bandmates Amber, Krystal, Luna and Victoria.
Sulli was a child actress before debuting in f(x) in 2009. She went on hiatus from the group starting in July 2014 due to malicious comments and rumors. After a year, she left f(x) in August 2015 to focus on her acting career.
She continued to become the target of malicious and hateful comments online including when she was in a relationship with Choiza of the group Dynamic Duo who was 34 and 14 years older than her. Their relationship became public in August 2014 and it ended in March 2017.
Sulli was one of the hosts of the Korean TV program “The Night of Hate Comments” wherein stars read and talked about comments and rumors about them. During an episode in July 2019, Sulli said, “I was mistaken for being pregnant. I was really hurt by people because of this incident.”
“I was really sick so I went to the hospital,” she said, according to Viu. She took many tests including OB-GYN exams and when people saw her going in for the tests, “the rumor started to spread. It actually became a big problem.” The show was cancelled after Sulli’s death.
Celebrities and fans marked her first death anniversary online. Young actress Kim Sun Ah, who appeared in the hit drama “Reply 1997” and who took care of Sulli’s cat Goblin after her death, visited Sulli’s grave and posted photos on her Instagram account and wrote, “I missed you so much.”
Fans left messages on Sulli’s Instagram account to commemorate her death.
“We miss u rest in peace beautiful angel,” one fan said while another wrote, “I love you. Rest peacefully, Sulli.”
Korean pop culture expert Seo Byeong-gi, a journalist at Herald Media and author of a book about BTS, said comments on social media “are very harmful because if you do something bad, just a little bad, people will drive you crazy with comments.”
“We don’t know what made her depressed but according to her (past) interview, she mentioned that she had been stressed because of the malicious comments and she also suffered with depression and mental issues. Compared to other stars, she gained so many comments,” he told Manila Bulletin and other Asian media under the Kwanhun-Korea Press Foundation Press Fellowship in Seoul on Oct. 15 last year, a day after Sulli died.
He explained that “for young people, young stars, malicious comments toward them are very serious. SNS [social networking service] can be a good tool for communication but now, people are taking sides. People are being hostile.”
Seo said social media comments are “the biggest task that Korean society is facing. Currently we are using SNS to express our emotions but I think we should really turn this into a good functioning device.”
“Because she refused to follow precedents and she always fought against bias. She always refused to wear a bra because it was uncomfortable and unhealthy. Because of her actions, she was gaining so malicious comments and she didn’t understand why,” Seo added.
Sulli appeared in numerous films and K-dramas including “Fashion King,” “Real,” “To the Beautiful You” and a cameo in “Hotel del Luna.”