[OP-ED This post reflects the opinions of the author and not those of allkpop.]
Sometimes K-Pop scares me — because beyond the glitz and the glamour lies a world of pain, hardship, and struggle. On October 14, the K-Pop industry lost former f(x) member and singer, actor, and model Sulli. At just 25, she ended her own life after enduring continuous online abuse.
When Sulli debuted as the innocent maknae of f(x), her stunning beauty and impressive vocals stole the hearts of fans. Her acting skills set her apart from other idols and with this, she became a K-Pop princess.
But just a few years later in 2014, the beloved maknae became the center of a scandal when her relationship with Choiza was revealed to the public. Instantly, netizens took to social media to condemn Sulli for her relationship. Beyond the 14-year age gap, Sulli was criticized for dating someone that was the complete opposite of the pure, flawless image that the public forced upon her. Ironically, Sulli received more hate than Choiza, being labeled a hypocrite and a liar for involving herself with someone associated with the taboo topics of drugs and sex. This marked the beginning of a wave of nasty comments against Sulli and eventually, f(x) lost a precious member.
In the midst of her ongoing struggles, Sulli was hit with another scandal in 2016 when she posted an “absurd” image of herself without a bra on. South Korea is well-known for its conservative views on women’s bodies and sexuality, so Sulli’s Instagram post posed a great challenge to the existing social norms. Almost immediately, critics expressed their disapproval and hate towards Sulli to the point where she was forced to explain herself to the public:
“Going braless is one’s freedom. Bras have wires; they are not good for [your] health. Not wearing one is comfortable. That is something beautiful and natural. For me, a bra is like an accessory. Some outfits go with it, and others do not. That’s why I sometimes do not wear a bra… when I upload my photos without a bra, people talk about it a lot. I could have been scared. But I didn’t because I thought it would be nice if more people could discard their prejudices. I want to step outside the box, tell people (not wearing a bra) is not a big thing.”
But Sulli was far from praised for her strength and independence as a woman. She was labeled an attention seeker and attacked by netizens.
While it is true that K-Pop idols should enter the industry knowing that they will always be in the public eye, they should not be held to a different set of standards, especially those that are unreasonable. Sulli challenged many conservative Korean viewpoints with her social media presence. She freely expressed her opinions on bras, shared her pro-abortion stance, and addressed seemingly controversial topics. But rather than being praised for her courage to address politics and women’s rights in a society where these topics are considered taboo, she became a victim of endless criticism and shame.
It is not a netizen’s role to critique how a celebrity lives their life — in fact, no one has the right to judge how anyone lives their life. It’s really disappointing to see that people are so blatantly choosing to hide behind their online profiles while hurting other people to the point where they consider taking their own lives.
I hope that Sulli’s premature passing serves as a reminder to the entire online community that celebrities are people too. Nasty remarks against celebrities are just as deadly as nasty remarks against friends, family members, or colleagues. It is times like these when I miss the supportive, loving K-Pop community that was free from all of these malicious commenters.
Idols have enough on their plate and certainly do not need any more pressure or stress. So to those social media monsters, I hope you realize the weight of your actions one day. Rest in peace Sulli — you deserved more.