Two popular K-Pop artists, Sulli and Goo Hara, committed suicide last year, with many attributing their deaths to the online abuse they had received over the years. But even as those shocking deaths sparked soul-searching in South Korea, the vitriol and hateful comments against many stars have not stopped. Before her death in October, Sulli became an outspoken pop star after her departure from her label SM Entertainment and her group F(x). She spoke frankly about her country’s abortion laws, feminism and her relationships, and was often spotted out and about without a bra — not the way K-Pop artists were expected to behave.
She released a song ‘Goblin’ in early 2019, which talked about mental illness. Then, after she appeared in the drama ‘Real’, where she played the role of a drug abuser, many branded her a drug addict.
Sulli, whose real name was Choi Jin-ri, was found dead at her home near Seoul by her manager who then alerted the police. “Choi seemed to have lived alone in the house. It seems that she took her own life,” a police official said at the time.
In 2017, JinE, a member of Oh My Girl, left the group following a long period of struggle with her health. Some fans assumed it was due to her struggles with anorexia, brought on by the demands of her job.
The K-Pop industry is trying to change slowly.
The topic of mental illness has become more open with many idols admitting to their problems and taking time to take a break and heal. Stars such as Jooheon from Monsta X and Han from Stray Kids, have gone on hiatus to deal with stress and anxiety issues.
Sulli’s death prompted major South Korean portal Daum to temporarily close its comments sections on entertainment news last year. Meanwhile, calls have intensified for government action against negative comments on websites where some users comment anonymously. For now though, in many other forums, the bullying continues unabated.
Here are some stars at the receiving end of abusive comments online:
Bang Chan from Stray Kids
Bang Chan is the leader of the boy group Stray Kids, which debuted as a nine-member band in 2018. Last year, Bang was accused of racism when he was spotted with braids during a performance, and was accused of appropriating black culture. But the comments on the V Live streaming website took things beyond the pale: While some sent him death threats, one person commented that it would have been better if Sulli had lived and Chan died.
Some started to use hashtags that excluded him out of the group like #2racha and #ot8.
“Imagine how much more successful Stray kids would be w/o Chan & his ignorance. He’s literally talentless. Chan, do the right thing & leave,” another commented on Twitter.
Jennie from Blackpink
Jennie, a member of Blackpink who debuted in 2016, has continued to receive hate for a number of reasons. While some ‘fans’ accuse her of being a favourite of her company and therefore receives special treatment, some say she got her solo debut too soon.
“Jennie is impolite, Jennie is rude, Jennie is ugly, Jennie is the worst, Jennie leave blackpink, Jennie can’t dance, Jennie is lazy, Jennie can’t sing, Jennie is fat, Jennie is ugly, Jennie anorexia, Jennie depress,” one user posted on Twitter.
“Hi blackpink How are you? I hate you Jennie beacouse you are very ugly and jiso rose lisa is my favourite not you jennie and plss leave you blackpink sorry for say,” said another.
Jimin from AOA
Jimin, the leader of popular girl group AOA who debuted in 2012, recently received a lot of backlash for a photo she uploaded of herself in a bikini. Commenters where quick to discuss her body size and age.
“Maybe it’s cause she’s a skeleton but I feel nothing from looking at her… Her body’s hard to look at that it’s not even worth getting judged,” one person commented.
“I hate her whiny voice when she raps. Her body’s like a 3rd grader’s too,” said another.
Others also did not hold back: “How can a female idol look so unsexy in a swimsuit photo? She’s not cute and she’s not pretty,” said another user.
“Is she really a celebrity? She has no curves at all,” asked another baffled ‘fan’.
— Marika Sequeira is an intern at Gulf News.