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Jonghyun’s death illuminates “Wether Effect” 2017-12-19 오후 5:13:00

On 18th of December 2017, a famous KPOP vocalist Jonghyun was found dead in a residence hotel room, Chungdam-dong, Seoul, South Korea. His biological sister suspected suicide of the deceased and called the police after receiving a message from her younger brother, stating “Life has been too harsh for me,” “This is my last goodbye,” and “Please just let me go.”

The death of promising vocalist with a sizable fan base all over the world including Japan, China, and Korea, shocked the public as well as his fellow artists. Numerous fans lamented for his death, expressing disbelief that their star had decided to take his own life.

Jonghyun’s mortuary is held in Seoul Ahsan hospital’s funeral hall, Songpa-gu, Seoul. Shinee’s four other member, Taemin, Onyou, Minho, and Key participated in wake as the chief mourner. Many SM entertainment’s executive members and artists came to offer their condolences. However, many psychologists raised apprehensions toward the fans who are devastated at the news of the death of their star.

“The Wether Effect,” also called “Copy-cat suicide” originated from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Wether. The novel depicts a protagonist, Wether, committing suicide with his pistol after being rejected by his lover, Charlotte. Because the way Goethe described the passionate love and other emotions that Wether felt, many young people decided to shoot themselves, admiring the protagonist’s action.

The term “Wether Effect” was coined by researcher David Philips in 1974, who raised concerns over the social effect that when the news of celebrity’s suicide reaches common people or the fans, they may emulate their stars and decide to kill themselves too.

What is more alarming is that this effect has been statistically proven: according to Suicide Prevention Association, in 2008, when “national actress” Choi Jin-Sil was found dead, the average number of suicides in South Korea increased significantly to 78 people a day, until to the fifth day, nearly 90 people took their own lives. The normal average rate of suicide was only about 30.

Noting that Shinee’s fan base is mostly comprised on teenage girls or women in their twenties, netizens are sharing the suicide prevention hotline (1566-0199) or the “Phone of Life” (1588-9191), and ways to withstand severe depressions or to resists from temptation of committing suicide, comforting each other.

Jonghyun’s entertainment, SM entertainment, earnestly requested the media to staunch from using sensational or evocative words in reporting of the company’s deceased artist.

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Tianjin International School (TIS)
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