K-pop icon Kim Jong-Hyun, the lead singer of Shinee. Photo: AFP, Yonhap
K-pop icon Kim Jong-Hyun, the lead singer of Shinee. Photo: AFP, Yonhap

He was one of the biggest stars in the K-pop cosmos. Superstar Jonghyun has sparked an outpouring of grief from fans in South Korea after he died in a possible suicide.

The lead singer of the country’s biggest boy band Shinee was rushed to hospital after being found unconscious in an apartment in Seoul. He was just 27 years old.

As the K-pop world was left mourning his loss, police told media groups that “suicide” will be investigated as a possible cause of death.

“His sister was first to call the police assuming that he might commit suicide,” said an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive subject.

Jonghyun, whose full name was Kim Jong-hyun, was the face of  the band Shinee. The group have had a string of number one hits in their home country, and are extremely popular across China, Japan and the rest of Asia.

Their mixture of bumble-gum pop and intricate dance routines have made them the darlings of a generation of teenage fans, and the pinups of the streaming music scene.

“Regardless of what fandom you’re in, today the K-pop community mourns together,” foreversoshi@foreversoshi wrote on Twitter. “I don’t even know what to say, just that I’m sorry we lost you Jonghyun. RIP. Jonghyun we will miss you dearly.”

Despite his glitzy on stage image, there was more to him than just a pretty face. He played a large part in crafting the band’s music and was a proficient songwriter, as well as being involved in the production and dance routines.

By 2015, Jonghyun had also established a successful solo career and was making an impact away from the music scene. He actively supported LGBT rights, as well as voicing his opinions about the Korean government’s educational policy.

But even though he was never out of the headlines, his life appeared to be a mixture of contradictions.  In a poignant message to his sister just before his death, he said: “This is my last farewell.” She immediately called the emergency services.

There was also a note, reportedly written by Jonghyun, which was posted on social media by close friend and artist Nine. It revealed the pop icon’s constant battle against depression.

“I was broken from the inside. The depression that was slowly devouring me, at last consumed me,” the note on Instagram stressed. “What else can I say. Just tell me I’ve done well. That this is enough.”

Yet Jonghyun appeared to have it all.

Along with other members of Shinee, he recorded a string of Japanese-language albums and sold out the 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome.

In the United Kingdom, a booking website crashed a minute after tickets were released when they announced they would appear at the Korean Film Festival in London in 2011.

Earlier this year, Jonghyun and the band toured North America for the first time.

“Let’s remember Jonghyun for all the great things he did over the years, for gifting us the opportunity to love someone entirely. Fly high,” mixnine global@Mix9 wrote on Twitter.

He certainly did as his brand of K-pop helped turn Shinee into a cultural phenomena. It also defined the Korean Wave genre and the country’s projection of soft power.

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