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Letter to the Editor: Jonghyun’s death is not a time to talk about the Korean industry, but Jonghyun himself

Re: "What the suicide of K-Pop's Jonghyun reveals about the industry"

Letter to the Editor: Jonghyun’s death is not a time to talk about the Korean industry, but Jonghyun himself

This letter is in response to the article regarding Kim Jonghyun’s death published under The Varsity’s Arts & Culture Section. I would like for you to respond to this letter, or at least acknowledge it, whether you decide to publish it or not.

The title of the article alone almost put me off. But I read it because I wanted to see what The Varsity had to say about a death that shook numerous fans — including me — around the world to their very core.

I was angered and saddened to find: not much.

As a K-Pop fan, I agree that the Korean entertainment industry is not without its problems, but there is a time and place to write about it.

Kim Jonghyun, before he was an idol, was a human. And when a human dies, we remember them for all the good they did, we try to comfort their loved ones, and try to come to terms with our own mortality. Never once in this article did the author mention Jonghyun’s support for his fans, for his colleagues, and for LGBTQ youth in Korea, or his achievements as a soloist or member of SHINee — an incredibly successful South Korean boy group. The author just wrote him off as “one of K-Pop’s greatest talents” and left it at that.

The author wrote that during discussions of Jonghyun’s death, “absent, however, was any degree of in-depth conversation about why it was that Jonghyun felt “broken from the inside,” as he wrote in his suicide note.”

The author apparently did not see the heartfelt letters by numerous K-Pop fans posted online that expressed regret upon not being able to help Jonghyun as much as he had helped them and encouraged those suffering silently that they were not alone. Neither did the author see K-pop fans urging each other to sign online petitions demanding Korean entertainment companies to give idols basic human rights as well as mental health support.

“Jonghyun identified fame as the specific reason he ended his life,” the author continued.

Jonghyun suffered from depression. He was incredibly open about it and while his hectic idol life as well as the stigma surrounding mental health may have caused his depression to worsen, to paint fame as the sole cause of his death is incredibly irresponsible.

The article exploring Kim Jonghyun’s death explained Jonghyun’s death in two paragraphs to get to its main point — how toxic and harmful the Korean entertainmemt industry is. This point is patronizing and Othering — yes, the Korean entertainment industry is toxic and harmful, but the author would be hard pressed to name one entertainment industry in the world that is not. Would it be appropriate for a Korean author to lament the dark side of Hollywood uponChester Bennington’s death? Upon Carrie Fisher’s death?

The author also cited “YouTubers Simon and Martina Stawski” as sources, who are poor sources. Both these Youtubers have been called out repeatedly for using Korean culture for profit; despite living in Korea, they allegedly didn’t even bother to learn Korean beyond basic phrases.

We absolutely need to have conversations about mental health and the stigma surrounding it in South Korea as well as the toxic nature of the K-Pop industry. Perhaps in a less Othering, less demonizing, less condescending way, however, that in no circumstances include the words “I would like to hope that something positive could come out of the death of Kim Jong-hyun“, and definitely not right when the wounds from Jonghyun’s untimely death are still fresh in the minds of fans and his loved ones.

All Jonghyun — and his fans — need to hear is that he did well.


Zeahaa Rehman

Letter to the Provost of Trinity College

A Trinity College student responds to Provost Moran following the TCM's vote of no confidence

Letter to the Provost of Trinity College

Editor’s note: The following letter was written by a fourth-year Trinity College student and is directed to the Provost and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College, Mayo Moran. The letter was written following the Provost’s response to the Trinity College Meeting’s recent vote of no confidence in the Office of the Dean of Students. The Varsity received the letter on October 27, 2017.

Dear Provost Moran,

I am writing in response to your letter to students regarding the overwhelming vote of no confidence against the Office of the Dean of Students on September 25. In your letter, you called on students to support the Dean of Students, reasserted your complete support for the Dean, and called for a re-evaluation of the alcohol policy because that somehow resolved the fact that your students do not feel served by this Dean.

I never attended a Trinity College Meeting before September 25, but passing a motion of no confidence in this Dean of Students was so important that I rented a gown and attended to vote in favour. This is a Dean’s Office that has systematically failed and disempowered women who were sexually assaulted in this College — several of whom, like Tamsyn Riddle, are my friends, and whose stories I have heard from their own mouths. The Dean’s Office has ignored the advice of student leadership on issues like the readmission of accused sexual assailants into residence, leaving student representatives increasingly powerless to address Trinity College’s far-reaching culture of impunity. You can understand why I and many other students had absolutely no confidence in the competence of this office long before the incident with Campus Police, and why I am shocked that your letter to students makes little mention of the Dean of Students’ record on sexual assault, except to say that students “do not have the full details.”

I understand that isolated disciplinary decisions are controversial and that unpopular decisions must occasionally be made, and stood by. That being said, students’ systematic and widely reported experiences cannot be dismissed because we “do not have the full details” of every case; it is insulting to suggest that the women who have spoken up know less about their own sexual assaults than you do. What students have seen and experienced is no less valid because of your personal confidence in the Dean’s Office. We as students have reached a consensus — evidenced by the overwhelming support for the vote of no confidence — that we do not trust the Dean of Students or their “expert consultations” to protect vulnerable people in our community. Members of the Dean’s Office should have resigned that day. Regardless of how well or poorly they performed, they should have respected the fact that they cannot serve us when they have categorically lost our faith.

Given that they failed to resign, however, it falls to you to advocate for students’ concerns with more than platitudes — particularly by launching an investigation into the Dean’s ability to respond to complaints around sexual assault, which we made clear was of far greater concern to us than the alcohol policy, to which you chose to devote the majority of your letter. We have placed our trust in you to do something, and for you to maintain our confidence, we require more than general assurances that the lived experiences and informed opinions of your students are less important than your own. Please do not allow your private views to interfere with your responsibility to treat your students’ concerns with respect.


Yours truly,

Hunter McGuire