‘I Will Steel My Heart’: K-Pop Star Apologizes to Fans for Suicide Attempt

South Korea's pop girl group KARA's Goo Ha-ra attends a press conference in Singapore, Tue
AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

Korean pop star Goo Ha-ra issued a statement from the hospital Tuesday apologizing to fans for attempting to commit suicide over the weekend and vowing to “steel” her heart and continue to live amid an ongoing legal dispute and sex scandal.

Goo’s manager found her unconscious in her apartment Sunday evening after she had failed to answer his phone calls. Aware of the intense public scrutiny she is facing and battle with depression, the manager, who Korean outlets have not named, accurately identified her silence as a sign of an emergency.

Goo’s K-pop group, Kara, broke up in 2016, and she has continued working independently since.

Hara’s would have been the most high-profile suicide in the K-pop world since the death of Jonghyun, a member of the K-pop supergroup SHINee, who left a suicide note stating that he did not want to be famous and could not understand how he had ended up a successful pop star.

The K-pop world is known for placing rigorous demands on its artists, who often begin their careers as children in “boot camps” where they are subjected to strenuous dancing regimens, strict diets, and humiliating physical evaluations. Many undergo cosmetic surgery and most are closely monitored in their private lives to ensure they do not behave in a way that would concern the parents of their young fans. For the men in the industry, their only respite comes in the form of South Korea’s mandatory military service, which can postpone their careers for as much as two years.

Goo, 28, was enduring a fall from grace after her ex-boyfriend accused her of domestic violence and allegedly threatened to release sexually explicit photos of her to the public to end her career. Her management company had refused to extend her contract in January.

“I am sorry for causing concerns and a commotion,” Goo said in a statement issued to several Japanese media outlets. “In terms of health, I am recovering … I had been in agony over a number of overlapping issues. But from now on, I will steel my heart and try to show up healthy.”

“So many things were happening in my life, all at the same time. I am truly sorry. I will show a brighter and healthier side of myself,” she reportedly said.

Goo’s suicide attempt in her Seoul apartment follows months of controversy triggered by what all sides agree was an intense fight with ex-boyfriend Choi Jong-bum in September. Both Goo and Choi accused each other of domestic violence; Choi claimed that Goo beat her after he told her he wanted to end the relationship, while Goo claimed Choi kicked her repeatedly and threatened further harm. Goo later accused Choi of threatening to release a sexually explicit video of her and saying, “I will end your career.”

Choi claimed that he merely sent Goo the video to return it to her after the relationship ended and that he did not request the video of help film it.

Choi is currently facing charges for coercion, threats, and sexual assault.

The K-pop world is still reeling from the 2017 suicide of Jonghyun of SHINee at age 27. Like Goo, Jonghyun reportedly asphyxiated himself in his apartment by burning coals with the windows closed. Jonghyun’s death came as a surprise to many as, unlike Goo’s attempt, it did not follow any scandals or overt signs of mental strain. He was scheduled to begin his military service in 2018, however, and did publicly express fear of spending two years in the South Korean army.

“I haven’t served in the army yet, so I am scared about doing something new. There is also the fear of having to be away from society for two years,” he said in a 2015 interview.

Jonghyun left a suicide note stating that he had wanted to end his life for some time but “it is very difficult to actually go through with it.”

“It wasn’t my path to become world-famous. Why did I choose this path? It’s quite funny now that I think about it. It‘s a miracle that I endured through it all this time,” he wrote.

Most of the surviving members of SHINee are all currently in the military, preventing the group from producing new music. Taemin, who is scheduled to begin service in 2021, recently sent off bandmate Minho to the service and has spoken about the loss of Jonghyun.

“I feel (the empty space) from every so often. It comes to me all of a sudden,” he said in an interview in February. “Last year, SHINee released 3 albums. I think we thought (of him) more during those times. We thought, ‘Let’s show them rather than hide it.’ We talked amongst each other that we should act the same way and hoped that people would treat us the same way, too.”

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