VOLUME 18 No. 4




©2019 Ski

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On the day of the Hunter Moon, October 14, 2019, in her darkest hour, South Korean singer and actress Choi Jin-ri (known as Sulli) made an irrevocable decision. Her manager found her the next day. Sulli, 25 years old, was dead by an apparent suicide.

The news shocked the Korean entertainment community. It created a flood of emotional responses of grief and condolences. And a growing sentiment of anger.

Sulli began her career as a child actor at age 11. She debuted at age 15 as a K-pop singer with the girl group f(x). This group quickly got famous for being different and edgy. Sulli was a free spirit, talented, successful and popular.

Despite her popularity, Sulli was constantly harassed by on-line cyberbullies. Bullies relentlessly and viciously attacked her. Sulli was open about taboo subjects like mental health. In conservative Korean society, only three things matter: health, wealth and status. Sulli was open about her depression, anxiety and panic disorders. But her anti-fans continued to harass her.

In 2014, it got so bad that she quit the entertainment industry. Cyberbullies pounced on her weakness to post more vile, unsubstantiated comments like she had attempted suicide., That she had no friends and was various curse words.

A year later, she returned to the entertainment field. She continued to be open on her social media, gathering 4 million followers. She continued to get film and commercial work. But her haters continued to hate.

At one point, her agency went after harmful commentators. One was about to be criminally prosecuted, but Sulli showed the bully mercy by dropping the charges because she did not want a college student's life ruined by a criminal conviction.




cyberculture, commentary, cartoons, essays



But her life was ruined, in part, by cyberbullies. She tried to directly confront this issue by hosting a program called Night of Hate Comments, where celebrities read actual malicious posts the commented upon them. Sulli kept her calm composure as she responded to her hate comments. It seemed like an odd choice. Why take on the anti-fans in a public forum? But she showed a bright, smiling, happy public image but we now know it masked a deep sadness.

The Korean entertainment industry is a brutal sweatshop. Agencies grind out talent like 19th century slaughterhouses used to churn out cut meat. Image is everything. Idols and actors have to have and maintain a clean, wholesome, innocent, pure and scandal free image. Even dating is a scandal because it could ruin the fantasy created for fans. Celebrities are under intense pressure to met the highest cultural standards. In some ways, Sulli was her own brand. She spoke her mind. She took chances in her acting, including nude seen during her comeback.

On the day before her death, she was living her normal life. She had released in June a new music album, called Goblin. She did a guest star cameo in her close friend, IU's, highly successful TV series, Hotel de Luna. Sulli was signed on to do a Netflix television series, Persona 2. On her SNS, her last two posts were looking over designer handbags. She was scheduled to shoot a fashion accessory commercial.

In a prior interview, Sulli admitted that hateful comments did hurt her. There were times when she was depressed she felt that there was no one on her side. However, in recent months she seems to have been strong against the criticisms. Her last “scandals” seem so insignificant. She supported the no bar movement for Korean women, stating it was more comfortable to not wear a bra. People bashed her for her choice, her appearance and that she was feminist, a loaded curse word in a paternalistic society. Lastly, during a live stream, she stood suddenly to accidentally expose part of her bare breast. She received a large amount of vicious comments about her character and that “lured” incident.

But no one knew how badly it affected her. Her manager spoke to her the day before her death. He went to her house the next day when she did not pick up his phone calls. She was found alone on the second floor of her home. A police investigation is still in progress. The initial autopsy report indicated that there was no foul play. There were reports that police did not find a suicide note or will, but a notebook of her handwritten “feelngs.”

One would have thought Sull's passing would give the cyberbullies and haters pause to reflect on their harmful posts. But social media is a cesspool of cancerous hate messages, lack of empathy, lack of common sense, lack of decorum, and lack of sympathy. Haters called Sulli's best friends, IU and Krystal “monsters” because they did not post condolences on their social media accounts. But IU and Krystal were at the funeral hall for the entire three day mourning period before the burial. They chose to grieve in private but the self-absorbed arbitrators of public opinion attacked without any factual information. Normal people were angry at these unbelievable attacks. Several petitions to the country President and proposed legislation to enforce defamation and malicious comment laws have been mentioned as a government response to this tragedy. Angry netizens want all posters to use their real names so they can be prosecuted for their vile behavior.

Parents used to counsel their children “sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you.” Before the digital age, a bully had to go face to face to his victim. In the schoolyard, one took the abuse, or fought back with fists. A bully with a bloody nose had reason to stop. Or an adult, like a teacher or principal, would intervene to correct the anti-social behavior. Or over time, more kids would gang up to shame the bully into stopping his abuse. It is unknown that if a fraction of Sulli's fans would have used their influence and stand up for Sulli that it would have made a difference in her final fragile state. But the internet is a vast dark space where anyone can publish anything against anyone without any real accountability or responsibility. It is an open invitation for the darkest evil to flourish in the minds of antisocial personalities. But as in Sulli's tragic case, words can hurt you; they can be fatal.

Sulli's family, friends and colleagues are left the grief, anger and regret of her passing at a young age. It will last with them for the rest of their lives. They did nothing wrong to be punished by this burden. Sulli did nothing wrong to be driven to the edge.

On October 17, the Korea Singers Association, which was founded in 1957 to establish bonds and protect the rights of singers, released a statement:

Today, we hold onto our collapsing hearts as we send away a colleague and junior artist. After hearing the sad news of Sulli (Choi Jin Ri), who we stood on the same stage with and As the Korea Singers Association bids farewell to Sulli (Choi Jin RI). to leave our sides, why it was not possible for her to not leave us . . . . If the job of singing with our hearts and sincerity becomes painful and is a job that requires us to be attacked by others, we will truly let go of singing. We do not know why Sulli, who is someoneŐs friend, sister, and daughter before being a singer, had to become the subject of sad news. We should have held onto her more and not let go. No, we should have approached her more affectionately. We feel resentful as we are powerless now and can only pound our chests with the regret biting our tails. The sadness belongs to those remaining. However, we do not plan on holding this sadness of today for a long time. We will beat the anger to stand up so there will be no colleague, senior artist, or junior artist who is exposed to a tragedy like todayŐs ever again. We will establish a counseling center within the Korea Singers Association and arrange specific plans for the support of mental health and laws. In addition, we will expand educational opportunities for cultivation of character and focus further on the well-being of our members to foster an atmosphere of sharing pain and happiness while looking after each other. Only that can become the answer to the question raised to us by Sulli. And more than anything, we make a strong demand to the government department responsible for leading Korea's cultural policies. Recognize your incompetence of not being able to offer a suitable solution despite the recurrence of tragic cases involving those working in culture and arts including our singers, who are the leaders of Hallyu and the flowers of music, and we hope that you will promptly propose a realistic solution. We once again pray for Sulli to rest in peace, and we wish she will sing to her heartŐs desire in that place free from hatred.



By all accounts, Sulli was a nice, pleasant, funny, intelligent and sensitive person. She was well respected in her field because the Korean entertainment industry nearly shut down during her mourning period as many acts canceled promotions, shows or releases out of respect. Netizen and international fan reaction and sorrow was vast and great. She may not have been the most famous talent in her field, but she was a rare individual who succeeded in the highly competitive fields of both K-pop singing and acting.

Sulli's career highlights:

In 2005, Sulli began acting professionally at the age of 11, when she was selected to play young Princess Seonhwa of Silla in the SBS drama Ballad of Seodong. Before her debut as a child actress, her stage name was changed from Choi Jin-ri which means the truth in Korean, to Sulli at the suggestion of a reporter who felt her birth name was too Christian. She continued to take on minor roles in television dramas and movies such as Vacation (2006), Punch Lady (2007), The Flower Girl is Here (2007) and BABO (2008).

On September 5, 2009, she debuted as a member of the group f(x), with the single La Cha Ta. In August 2012, Sulli starred as the lead role in To the Beautiful You, based on the famous Japanese shojo manga series Hanazakari no Kimitachie. The drama series Sulli played a girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to attend the same school as her crush. She later won the New Star Award at the SBS Drama Awards for her performance in the drama.

In 2014 , Sulli abruptly went on hiatus from the South Korean entertainment industry, naming her idol career, due to being mentally and physically exhausted from the continuous, malicious comments and false rumors that had been spread about her. However, she continued her acting career by appearing in the 2014 period adventure film The Pirates alongside box office stars Son Ye Jin and Kim Nam-gil. She played a supporting character named Heuk-myo, a young girl who became a pirate after being saved by the female captain. Later, she played the leading role in comedy film Fashion King, based on the webtoon series. In 2017, Sulli starred in a leading role in the film Real during which she was falsely accused of drug use on social media due to her dilated pupils in the film.

On June 29, 2019, Sulli made her debut as a solo artist with the EP album Goblin. Sulli then joined the JTBC Network variety program, The Night of Hate Comments, which discuss celebrity's reactions to hateful comments, malicious rumors, and cyberbullying they had encountered online. In the first episode, Sulli responded cheerfully to the mean spirited comments. She agreed that her biggest success is her social presence on social network and that she is an attention seeker. However, she disagreed with comments claiming she looked like a druggie because of her large dilated pupils, saying that she has done nothing illegal, but had studied drug behavior during method acting. Moreover, she denied going braless to seek attention, saying that for her it was more comfortable, as well as “more natural and prettier.” She said she sees bras as an accessory that she sometimes wears, and had continued to go braless after it became a controversy, to help make the prejudice disappear. While discussing past malicious comments she had received, Sulli said she had started to sue once, but the commentator, a student at a prestigious college, had sent a long letter of apology, and she had forgiven them.

However, she said she would not do the same again. She expressed her hope that people could accept each other's differences and said, “There are so many unique types of people in this country with so much talent and I feel like they're wasting it by putting their energy into critiquing others like this online.”

Her last acting role was a summer 2019 cameo in her close friend, IU's drama, Hotel de Luna. It was a one episode guest appearance playing a young woman who could be matched with one of the leading characters. The irony about this appearance is that the highly acclaimed television series dealt with the premise that after people die, there souls should not leave for the afterlife if they have any lingering regrets or unsolved issues.

In July 2019, Sulli announced that she was an advocate for the no bra movement. Her previously uploaded images on social media of her not wearing a bra and exposing her nipples on a number of occasions, starting from May 2016, was met with heavy criticism. In September 2019, Sulli's breast was accidentally exposed during a live stream on social media, causing a backlash against her in South Korea. Following her death, it was revealed that Sulli had repeatedly asked her agency, SM Entertainment, to take strong measures against the malicious comments.[

In summary, besides her time with f(x), she is credited as lyricist, music writer and singer on her 3 song EP. she was also a featured artist on Dean's single. She had roles in 8 motion pictures, 8 television series. She hosted or was a guest on 4 variety shows. In 2012, she won SBS Network's New Star Award.


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