Nearly 200 devoted fans gathered in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur on Thursday night to pay tribute to Kim Jong-hyun, the lead singer of top South Korean boy band SHINee who died this Monday in a possible suicide.
Fans, mostly young teens of Chinese ancestry, gave speeches, lighted candles and sang the group’s hit song Replay near the river close to tourist spot Masjid Jamek.
“It’s a chance and effort to let the fans find closure and provide at least a small amount of comfort. Telling them that they are not alone. And if they need help there is a community with like-minded people,” University of London economics student Catherine Tan, 21, who co-organised the event, told Asian Correspondent.
Malaysian tribute to @SHINee's Jonghyun at the Blue Pool, Dataran Merdeka tonight.
— Malaysian Kpop Fans (MKF) (@msiakpopfans) December 21, 2017
Fans also dressed in white and brought white balloons and fan merchandise to the tribute, which lasted for about one and a half hours, before dispersing on police order.
Jonghyun is the lead singer in SHINee, one of South Korea’s most popular boy bands who has been around for nearly a decade. The 27-year-old artist, who recently went solo, was found unconscious in his serviced residence in Seoul, according to police officials, Reuters reported.
His death is a big blow to the massive worldwide K-pop fan base, especially when his suicide note reveals the star’s struggles with feelings of depression, self-hate, isolation and the pain of being “known to the world”.
It’s sparked a conversation around mental health, with the hashtags #MyMentalHealthIn5Words and #YouDidWellJonghyun trending on Twitter – Jonghyun’s final text message to his sister reportedly wrote, “Tell me I did well”. South Korean media outlets are also providing information about suicide and where to seek help for it, in line with the World Health Organization guidelines on suicide reporting.
.@BefriendersKL has seen emails from distressed young Malaysians – many under 20-years-old – almost double after singer #Jonghyun's death. They're urging #SHINee fans to talk about how they're feeling with someone they trust, a professional or call their hotline: 03-79568145 pic.twitter.com/hWiruIEwrQ
— Sumisha Naidu (@sumishanaidu) December 20, 2017
The response to the K-pop idol’s death has taken a different turn amongst the Malaysian public, for which Muslims make up the majority. While many mourned his death, certain conservative segments vilified Jonghyun and his fans as obsessive, as well as “un-Islamic” as suicide is considered a sin in the religion and believers were allegedly not allowed to pray for the “kafirs” (infidels).
Nonetheless, several Malaysian Muslim fans turned up at the tribute yesterday, though many were fearful of revealing their identities for fear of more public backlash against them.
“I’m just here to pay my respects to him. I don’t think my presence is against any Islamic principles,” said a 17-year-old Malay Muslim male, who wishes to remain anonymous.
RIP JONGHYUN OPPA😢 in the islamic religion suicide is the greatest sin, but because our religion is different i am islam you are another religion, but i still pray for you, my god ALLAH, only ALLAH knows, REST IN PEACE OPPA😢😭 GOODBYE JONGHYUN OPPA😢 😭😭
— Afrita_Ayuni_93 (@afrita_ayuni93) December 19, 2017
A 22-year-old Shawol – what SHINee’s fans are officially called in the K-Pop fandom – who only wants to be known as Tifa said: “In my opinion, it is not wrong for you to like whatever you want to like.
“People in Malaysia keep looking down on us as if we have nothing else better to do than to mourn a dead K-pop guy. I’ve been following him since I was in school, it’s very heartbreaking to see him go like this.
“He died because of depression so you cannot joke about someone else’s death. It’s a mental health issue, but people in Malaysia keep talking badly about him.
“It makes me feel so sad.”
Editor’s Note: For those of you living in Malaysia, please call one of the following numbers if you are thinking about suicide: 03-79568145 or 03- 92850039 (hotlines for suicide prevention).
This article first appeared on our sister website Asian Correspondent