A Letter to SHINee’s Jonghyun: What If There was Hope?

Photo by saranghaegdoppa on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Written By Lee Soo Yi, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

Dearest Jonghyun,

I was in disbelief when I first heard the news that you took your own life. I didn’t believe it was real. I thought it was a hoax, a sick prank someone had played. I couldn’t believe someone as jovial and happy-go-lucky as you would ever commit suicide.

It was only until I read various media reports on your death and the official press release by your management company, that it finally hit me: I would never get to see your cheerful face and your cute expressions, or hear your angelic voice again.

It breaks my heart.

I had always thought that you would use your voice to bring happiness to those who love your music. That I would get to see you releasing your next self-composed song, reuniting with the rest of SHINee, serving the nation, getting married, and even becoming a father in the future. It never crossed my mind that you would choose the lonely road of no return.

I’m so sorry that I only learned of your struggle with depression after reading the letter that you sent to your friend, Nine from Dear Cloud. In it, you wrote that “the depression that was slowly devouring me at last consumed me”.

On behalf of other Shawols who have supported you ever since you debuted in 2008, I’m truly sorry that we were unaware of all the pain and exhaustion you felt.

It feels particularly sorrowful to hear of your passing in this season of Christmas, and to think that you won’t be around to spend it with us. For all those who love you, this Christmas is going to be exceptionally difficult to go through.

Dearest Jonghyun, as I’m penning this letter to you, I can’t help but wonder what I would have said to you if I actually had the chance. Right now, the words that come to my mind are from Isaiah 9:2-6:

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned . . . For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

It’s not your fault for falling into depression and despair. But I wonder if death was the only way out for you? I wonder if you would still have made the same choice if you knew about Jesus, our true hope?

If you had known that 2,000 years ago, a baby—Jesus Christ—was born among us and His arrival brought light into this world of darkness and despair, and that He bore our sins and sacrificed Himself on the cross in our place so that we could have true joy and everlasting hope, would that have given you the courage to cling on despite the despair you felt?

It’s heartbreaking that we’d never be able to know the answer to this “if”.

Dearest Bling Bling Jonghyun, it saddens me that I would not have the chance to call you by this name again.

You’ve worked hard and we will always miss you.

Finally, I wish that nobody on this earth will have to feel the despair and hopelessness you felt, because there is an everlasting hope who can give us the grace to face the challenges of tomorrow.

His name is Jesus.


Your fan of nine years,
Lee Soo Yi

30 replies
  1. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    Yes, His name is Jesus.
    I put my life on His hand for 24 years -still going on.
    God never promised us an easy journey, but He did promise a safe arrival, and that He would be with us every step of the way.

  2. Ay oye
    Ay oye says:

    I’m so happy someone said this I was thinking about it….. I legit prayed that he’d come back to life….. But i was even sadder that he didn’t know Christ…. Because Christ gives life and joy in abundance… Sk thank you for making me feel better… God loves you

    • Ellen
      Ellen says:

      me too.. >.<
      feeling empty for 3 days… cant stop praying…. ah…lets care for others more…, and
      stay live by faith. Christmas is coming, Gbu

    • Leslie Cisneros
      Leslie Cisneros says:

      Girl! I prayed for that too! To give him one more chance and allow me to go and talk to him about God. I was and am really down about this news and everything that girl said in the letter was the same thoughts that I have. And believe me, that’s why it kills me and sadden me more than anything is that he died without God. Without giving him a chance to change his life. I want to believe that while he was dying, he gave his life to God. I want to believe that. I hope he repented before his death.

    • Yoo
      Yoo says:

      I think he is Christian since 성도 (Saint) is written in his plaque, that also translates to “Kim Jonghyun, believer” also, by the miracle of God, the moon turned into pearl aqua green: the color of the SHINee fandom. I love to think that the moon sign is a comfort from God that Jonghyun has arrived safely in Heaven… It warms my heart just to think of it optimistically

    • Sassy
      Sassy says:

      I’ve been a believer for many years, but I’ve also suffered clinical depression and bipolar disorder. This doesn’t mean I’m crazy! It means the chemicals in my brain cause the electrical signals flashing through my brain to get messed up because of those chemical imbalances. It takes a lot of medication and therapy to get the upper hand, but you ALWAYS will have to be on the lookout for a downward spiral.

      I can honestly say I backslid during one of my episodes and tried to harm myself. The thing that brought me back was hearing Him tell me “Talitha cumi.” Rise up. I did and gave my life back to him. I know that when those depressions hit and we have tweak my meds, that my true Healer holds my eternal life safe in His hands and when those hard times come, my hand is stayed from trying to kill myself again because Jesus is in my life. I hope that Jonghyun had the chance to meet Him before he drew his last breath..

    • Regina Gouveia
      Regina Gouveia says:

      Na verdade, depressão é uma doença, e até cristãos sofrem com ela, o trágico da história do Jonghyun, é que ele não conseguiu a ajuda que precisavae que os estavam perto não reconheceram o perigo da situação. Me parece que ele era cristão, que ele possa estar com Deus, que é misericordioso e conhecia o sofrimento do Jonghyun.

  3. Nikuman
    Nikuman says:

    Wow amen I am so glad to see you shawols who are also my fellow sisters in Christ! I was also wondering what would have happened if our dearest Jonghyun had the opportunity to know God. But let’s take this as a wake up call that we need to spread the gospel to others, especially those who are hurting. Jesus came as a physician to help those in pain and sorrow. Jesus gives His life to us as our enjoyment and peace! 🙂

    “Casting all your anxieties on Him, because it matters to Him, concerning you.” – 1 Peter 5:7
    The Lord is able to sympathize with us and wants us to tell Him about all our sorrows and pain.

    “God is there for me tomorrow,
    As He is for me today;
    He’ll take my cares and sorrow,
    And He’ll wipe them all away;
    There’s no crisis that He can’t bear,
    There’s no storm He can’t abate;
    He’s my God.”

    Let’s stand firm in our faith in Christ everyone!

  4. Blk light disco
    Blk light disco says:

    There are those who believe yet take their lives, and there are those who are nonbeliever who never think about it. Keep your beliefts to yourself, please dont burden him with them. Pray that you are able to accept KJH’s will instead of letting your egos and beliefs determine what is/was right for him. He was very clear and requested that we let him go. The last thing he need in death is more expectations from others. This is the very type of thing he wrote about having to deal with in his final letter. So I beg that you stop wanting a dead man to follow your guidelines. I know you’ll feel better believing that your prayers have power over his will. But it’s best to pray and find away to accept KJHs will. What IF you let him have what he didn’t get while living… peace.

  5. bom
    bom says:

    Those comment are not “wanting a dead man to follow your guidelines” and never ask for approval.
    It just opinions, This is a Ministry Forum . They talking in its place.
    anyway Happy Friday, Gbu.

  6. Blk light disco
    Blk light disco says:

    Then its best not to say he was missing God in his life as if that would have solved all things. Because really, we dont know if he didn’t or if it would have made a difference.

    • Sassy
      Sassy says:

      Oh, contraire. Jesus didn’t say life would be easy or safe, but He did promise to never leave us or forsake us. He’s not a figment of our imaginations. He existed. There’s plenty of proof, from hundreds of witnesses that what the Bible teaches is true history. Having the God of the Universe love us enough to pay our ransom for sin and death is, I don’t know…COMPLETELY AWESOME!

      You’re entitled to your beliefs, that’s fine. Why attack others who have the hope he met that God of the universe? That’s not pasting our hangup on him. We just hope that’s what happened.

  7. Sarrah
    Sarrah says:

    I was not a fan until I heard of his death. It’s a shame I only appreciated him now that he is gone. But when I first heard about the cause of death, I instantly asked- Is he a believer? I felt sad upon knowing that he is an agnostic/atheist.

    I hope Daesung of Big Bang can spread the wonderful word of God to his fellow idols. He said in an interview that when he was on the verge of committing suicide, he saw the cross and was reminded of his faith. Truly, Jesus saves us all the time.

    Yet, seeing the number of people speaking about his wonderful life made me realize one thing. God saw everything that he did. He was there when Jonghyun was struggling. I want to believe that even if he was an atheist, he treated a lot of people like how Jesus treats them.

    What if a person doesn’t believe in God? Will he go to heaven? I remember a good friend telling me that God will look at how we lived our lives on Earth. That’s how they will be considered.

    But they say, a person who committed suicide will go to hell for this is a grave sin. Yes it is but I want to consider the mental illness that Jonghyun fought with. He did his best but the illness was just too much to overcome. Will he go to hell? Nobody knows. None of us can judge him.

    And may I just share, a priest here in our country talked about spirits begging for confession from him. God’s mercy is endless. His mercy even reaches out to the dead. So, we can only pray that his soul is with Jesus now. Let’s continue praying for his soul and for his loved ones.

    In this season of Christmas, it is a great reminder that Jesus will always be enough for us to look past on all these temporary pain and pleasures.

    May many people know about Him. Let’s spread His word.

    • Celia
      Celia says:

      The grave sin is sinning against the Holy Spirit not committing suicide. One goes to hell for not accepting Jesus Christ as Lord & Savior. But remember the criminal who hung on the cross next to Jesus: He accepted Jesus in his last dying moments. This means that we never really are sure who we’ll see in heaven. Depression is a disease. Just as a person doesn’t go to hell for smoking cigarettes & developing heart disease or lung disease, one does not go to hell for having a brain disease which negatively affects their thinking.

    • Christine Chou
      Christine Chou says:

      Celia, it is true. Only our Heavenly Father know who are going to live or be condemned eternally. We need to focus on be becoming more Christ-like and depend on the Lord in our daily walk.

  8. Clara Heng*
    Clara Heng* says:

    Hi Soo Yi,

    I appreciate you writing this article and providing readers with your thoughts and comfort regarding his demise.

    However, I hope you do realise that Jonghyun is a Christian. I also personally know of friends who’re Christians but are also undergoing depression. Hence, I hope you see from my (and others’) viewpoints that this article does come across to us as overly critical and a lack of proper understanding regarding depression. Personally, I found this article to be of a disrespect to the deceased and those suffering from depression.

    I hope you can take these concerns into consideration and review your information deeper before writing on such a sensitive topic in future.

    Thank you and Merry Christmas.

    • bom
      bom says:

      It will be “wrong” if she posted in soompi, Fan club forums or all other forum like that.
      Because this is a Christian Forum.. She already talked in its place. She also said sorry about depression
      We hope you can take this concerns into consideration and review your comments too.
      May God Bless you

  9. jeanw
    jeanw says:

    Thank you so much for writing this post Soo Yi. You were by no means being critical but merely spoke out of your heart and faith. I do believe that depression is a secular problem, and so are medical methods to address it. Say,
    even Christians who suffer from it( such as I) need the support and help from those around me and more importantly, medical professionals.(Small info to note, Jonghyun’s mother is a Christian but he himself has not identified as one.)

    There is a worrying unhealthy industry that is-kpop, for idols and those who idolize. Imagination of someone’s private life and image, ridiculous expectations, deranged sense of ownership- just think about it, just scroll through comments on any of your kpop idol’s social media, especially the ones from k-netizens. I get so upset when I think about how he was trolled when he defended LGBTQ rights, these ‘kpop-idols’ are constantly judged by every single known aspect of their life, morally even. This is a damning phenomenon celebs outside of Korea are not subjected to, though being in the public eye always puts you in the forefront of criticism, unlike in Korea however, celebrities are valued first as private individuals.

    I have battled with depression my entire life, and I think it is even more important to address the rampant suicide rate in South Korea. There is an issue of glamorizing suicides because Korea is known for having high profile celeb suicides, and the fact is there is a neglect of mental health initiatives and stigma of therapy. Just read up any academic papers from universities, the South Korean Health and Welfare Ministry estimates that 90% of people who committed suicide in 2016 had a diagnosable psychiatric illness, such as depression or anxiety, conditions often caused by stress.

    It does not help when people overlook the fact that depression is a treatable illness, when you glamorize suicide and think ‘yes it was the best thing he could have done for himself, at least he is happy now’- that causes a vicious cycle.

    I know in his letter he referenced a psychologist, but treating depression requires true initiative, genuine support and most importantly, time. It is one the hardest battles to fight, you often rebound, but you can if you put your well being first, everything else comes second. In the midst of battling alone with fame, the pressure, hate comments and being in the public eye, feeling completely depressed and alone – this ‘idol’ had an insane schedule, had to put himself on stage, smile, sing and dance when his demons were telling him he had nothing to live for. His well being did not come first.

    What is sad, is that he left many clues in his music and interviews, even till his last day- he wanted another way out of the pain other than suicide, writing a suicide note ten days before what you knew was going to be your last concert? it sounded like he was begging for help. People saying you can’t watch over a grown man, but that is exactly why people are put on suicide watch, you should never, ever undervalue a human life. Many of us have to battle with depression due to unforgiving circumstances, I would like to hear society, the people around us telling us the need to choose life, and that we are supported by doctors, medicine, we should fight this battle- people don’t want to end lives, they want to end their suffering. Addressing their suffering is priority no.1.

    He was young, talented and in pain, I don’t blame him one bit for wanting to end his pain when he felt nothing better.

    • Celia
      Celia says:

      Said so very well. I too battled with suicidal tendencies from age 12 to 25. Really knowing that Jesus came to rescue us all, having self love, reading & watching positive media from people who survived, & taking it easy on myself are things that helped me survive & not return to that dark cave of extreme pain. The spiritual side needs to be addressed too. It is possible to be depressed & suicidal from demonic harassment. I too believe that he didn’t want to die, but understood no way out. I keep hearing stories of people converting to Christianity because Jesus appeared to them. Now I say this because if he didn’t really want to die, Jesus knows this & it’s still possible to rescue someone at that point.

  10. Wing
    Wing says:

    I was also did not really about them until this tragedy. Have you all checked Amazing Grace by them already? He did have a cross on his board.. We must trust God. If we all love him so much….how much more does God our Father loves him? <3

  11. Anya
    Anya says:

    Forgive me if I offend anyone here, or if I misunderstanding. But if I’m not mistaken some of you guys feel that what Jonghyun did is okay because at first he must be didn’t want to ended his life and that he have no choice to do it. But guys, I need you to know that what Jonghyun did is wrong, because he actually have a choice, everybody in this world have a choice whether they want to live or not, it just that he choose the wrong choice, I believe that time he was moved by the devil that he choose to end his life, and maybe the reason he moved by the devil was because he didn’t find hope anymore or not knowing about the truth in Jesus. And I think maybe Jonghyun not so religious by the fact that he find a way to handle his depression by going to the psychologist and (maybe) not to Jesus. That’s why I sad that he don’t know about hope in Jesus so that he do that.

    The reason why I said that was because my mom have been in a depression like that. She told me that at some point she heard someone tell her that she should kill herself and the voice is so loud it feels like it was herself telling her to do that and its happen frequently. Maybe if she choose to listen to that voice, my mom wouldn’t be in this world anymore.

    So what I want to say is, as a Christian I feel like I need to share that when you ended your life by yourself is a sin no matter what struggling you’ve been, because its your choice after all and when a person ended own life will go to hell.
    I’m sorry if what I say offend some of you guys that believe that Jonghyun is in heaven. I, myself have a slight hope that maybe when he is in the hospital he give his life to Jesus so that he is saved. I just worried that I read some of you guys is struggling or know someone with depression but feel like ending yourself is okay because you don’t have a choice.

    So remember guys, you always have a choice in this life and choosing Him is the way of life, don’t be worry, because everything happens for a reason and if you walk with Him, He will give the best for you. To all of you guys that struggling with depression or maybe just read this comment, don’t ever give up, there’s always Jesus who loves you more than anything else and will give you hope no matter what you are going through.

    I’m sorry if this comment is offending or anything else, but I feel like I need to say this tho, soo
    God Bless You everyone! and Have a nice day!:)

    • Aspen Fowler
      Aspen Fowler says:

      Hello Anya. Maybe this will not change your mind but I find it significant enough to at least try and share with you. My mother who is 65 years old has had depression for over 40 years. She used to pray and plead with God to take it away, but it was always there. She finally was able to get onto an anti-depressant which has carried her through since, but she would not have made it without it. It was definitely God’s own way of “healing” her by giving her the pills as a resource, but the resource of pills is a luxury. In Korea, anti-depressants, counseling and any other form of therapy is taboo. It is very hard to access and is not something that Jonghyun could have achieved with SM’s strict rules and tight schedule. It is a serious handicap that morphs our state of mind, thus morphing the choices we are able to make. Sometimes people have a small will that will pull them through, but there are also many that don’t. Jonghyun was last seen at a convenience store and it was reported by the cashier that he was standing outside there for a long time. He also drove back and forth on that street. He really did not want to die. I hope you can maybe think about my response for a while.

  12. joolz
    joolz says:

    I know what the infallible Word of God says about the only unpardonable sin which is blasphemy. I do not believe Jonghyun committed this particular sin, if so, it is between him and God.
    Matthew 12:31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
    I would not go by what he said or she said in these matters I would go to the Word of God and study to learn HIS opinion or thoughts on it. Also, I believe Jonghyun was truly a believer in God and when his CD Poet I Artist came out, the page that had the words in red “Brothers and Sisters in Christ” on it, truly blessed my soul. Some speculated his Mother had that put in the CD but from December 18, till the release date of the CD, those CD’s were already boxed up waiting to go out for that January date! His Mother or no one else could have put that in the CD. Jonghyun made his CD his way, is my belief and with his quote I’ve read of “Life being a series of encounters and farewells. I believe we grow in the process. For now, it’s very sad, but we will meet again”! Gives me hope, that I will see my Brother in Christ, Kim Jong Hyun one day!
    I was on antidepressants a long time, I know what they can do to the mind. Warning labels read “May cause suicidal thoughts or suicidal tendancies”. Why would we want to ingest that into our own bodies? I did and I thought often of ending my life, but I’m blessed I was afraid to do so. I know what the thoughts can do to the mind. We think about the thoughts, we can have good thoughts or bad. The enemy loves to put bad thoughts in our head and he’s smooth at it. I know about the verse that changed my life forever: 2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind. I’m so blessed someone saw the miserable mess I was in and who showed me that scripture. It literally saved my life and changed my life. It took me a long time to learn to change my thoughts. 2 Corinthians 10:5: Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; To me that says ‘WWJD?” What Would Jesus Do? We are to walk, talk, think, do, be, live, love, teach, as Jesus did while on this earth! Jesus is alive and well today! To Think like Jesus would think, take our thoughts captive and be at peace, live in joy, happiness and contentment in this life. I’m still struggling every day, but so blessed HE’s brought me so far from what the miserable mess HE found me in! Even though I was a born again by HIS blood Christian, for that is the only way to get to heaven. No Works! Read the Bible, the Word of God! We can be good, kind, nice, honest, all we want. Unless we are born again by the blood of Jesus that was shed on that cross, we are just good, kind, nice, honestly going to hell sinners that are still lost thinking we are going to heaven!
    It’s not about a religion, but a relationship. I read these comments earlier and left, but they’ve stayed on my mind so I came back to leave what I pray if only one person finds some wisdom in them, then Praise God, what a blessing! I don’t know where Jonghyun is. I do pray that he is where he’s at peace, with joy, happiness and no more pain, no sadness, ever again. God knows his heart. As HE knows ours that have commented here.
    God bless everyone who comes here! I love you all with the Love of Christ that is within me! See you there! 🙂

  13. Maddisyn Young
    Maddisyn Young says:

    This is an amazing post, although all the talk of religion makes me a bit uncomfortable. I apologize for not being able to understand your beliefs, even though I do respect them. But I sincerely hope just as much as you that our dear Jonghyun is happy, wherever he is now. I also hope that the other members of SHINee can be happy in their days to come, that they will always carry Jonghyun in their hearts as they live amazing lives of love, happiness, and laughter.


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