Mental Health in South Korea

I have decided to research mental health in South Korea as the topic for the digital artifact and reflection report assessment. I have specifically delved into how mental health affects both famous and everyday South Koreans. There is a variety of reasons behind South Korea having the highest suicide rates among OECD countries (haydn-an, 2020).  They include the pressure that school students have to go through in order to do well on their studies, as well as, being bullied by their peers over the way they look. This directly relates to the issue of lookism that is rampant in South Korea (Jo, 2019). Famous South Koreans suffer from malicious comments from anonymous netizens who seem to think that their anonymity protects them from backlash and this leads them to write whatever they wish no matter how harsh it is. Some entertainment companies have been trying to fight this attack on their artists by suing the people behind these anonymous usernames.

Starting from 2016, I became interested in K-pop and the many groups that make it up. I remember late 2018, I was sitting in the living room with members of my family and I was also scrolling through my Instagram explore page. There I found something that absolutely shocked me, a young K-pop idol was found dead in his home after committing suicide. Even though Jonghyun of the K-pop group Shinee was not a person who I knew a lot about or was following thoroughly, the shock of his death saddened me. This is because I, and others from what I saw later, never realised that he was suffering because he rarely discussed his struggles publicly or even showed it. I remember being upset and crying over the devastating news. This event started my knowledge of how huge and affecting the mental health issue is in Korea.

Throughout my research process, I knew that I wanted to get ordinary South Koreans thoughts about this topic. So naturally, I went to YouTube to search for street interviews and other similar content. There I found a street interview by the YouTube channel itsjinakim which was about the topic of mental health (2018). The questions asked were about why these people think that South Korea has such a high rate when it come to suicide. They were also asked about why they believe people choose to hide their illness and not seek help for it. Another video that I looked at when searching through YouTube was one of two Canadian teachers who worked in South Korea and who in this video titled ‘ TL;DR – Mental Health in Korea'(2013). On their channel Simon and Martina, they discussed what shocked them about life in South Korea when it comes to mental health and how it is dealt with.

Carolyn Ellis, Tony E. Adams & Arthur P. Bochner (2010) define autoethnography as an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience. This approach challenges canonical ways of doing research and representing others and treats research as a political, socially-just and socially-conscious act. From an autoethnographic approach, I can definitely recognize a similarity between South Korea’s approach (Watkins, 2018). to mental health, as well as, my home country Lebanon’s approach (Niemeyer, n.d.). This refers to both countries not having a general understanding of mental health and the correct way of dealing with those who suffer from mental illnesses. This is in opposition with my other country Australia which has much more to offer in terms of mental health awareness, education and aid.


Ahmed, T 2019, K-pop singer Sulli dead at 25, Newsweek, viewed 30 January 2021, <

cbs/AFP 2019, Sulli has died: Former f(x) member and South Korean pop star who decried cyberbullying found dead at her home,,

ChosunMedia The Chosunilbo 2007, Singer U;Nee Dies in Apparent Suicide,, viewed 30 January 2021,

Contreras, L 2018, Essay #1:Tapping into Mental Health in South Korea’s Kpop Community, Medium, Medium,

ddangha 1424, DSP Trainee and ‘Baby Kara’ Member Sojin Found Dead, Soompi, viewed 30 January 2021,

Ellis, C, Adams, T & Bochner, A 2010, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, Art. 10, 

haydn-an 2020, Shocking results show South Korea has the highest suicide rate among the OECD countries, allkpop, viewed 30 January 2021,

Hazeldine, S 2017, Everything Asia: Youth suicide in South Korea, Coffeehouse conversations., viewed 31 January 2021,

Hearon, S 2017, Kim Jonghyun’s Three-Day Funeral Begins, Fans Mourn SHINee Singer, Us Weekly, viewed 31 January 2021,

itsjinakim 2018, Why Do Koreans Feel Depressed? Mental Illness & Therapy, YouTube, viewed 31 January 2021,

Jo, Y 2019, The Seriousness of Lookism in South Korea: The Importance of Appearance in South Korea, Medium, Medium,

Jubilantj 2016, Netizens speculate Umji’s hiding her face on stage after comments about her ‘ugliness’, allkpop, viewed 30 January 2021,

klawguru 2014, [STORY] Seo Ji-won, KLAWGURU.COM, viewed 30 January 2021,

Koreaboo 2015, Past photos of Sulli as a child actress resurface, Koreaboo, viewed 30 January 2021,

Lee, WL 2020, Goo Hara’s Estranged Mother Went To The Late Star’s Funeral And Asked For Photos With Celebs, TODAYonline, viewed 30 January 2021,

Lim, S-H 2020, [팩트체크] 어린자식 두고 떠났던 친모가 구하라 재산 절반 상속?, 연합뉴스, viewed 30 January 2021,

Lin 2019, ITZY ChaeRyeong’s Mother Pleads With Netizens To Stop Malicious Comments About Daughter’s Appearance, Kpopmap – Kpop, Kdrama and Trend Stories Coverage, viewed 30 January 2021,

Married Wiki 2017, Woman injects cooking oil to her face, here is why,, viewed 30 January 2021,

Mnet K-POP 2019, [ENG sub] Mnet TMI NEWS [14회] ‘여자친구 엄지’의 빛나는 미소 뒤, 숨겨진 금빛 비밀 190918 EP.14, YouTube, viewed 30 January 2021,

Moreau, B 2020, Red Velvet’s Wendy Reveals The Extreme Limits She Once Went To For Weight Loss, Koreaboo,

Niemeyer, I 2019, The Perception of Mental Health in Lebanon, The Borgen Project, viewed 31 January 2021,

Park, E 2019, ‘구하라 폭행’ 전 남자친구, 1심 징역형…‘촬영은 무죄’, newsis, viewed 30 January 2021,

Sistek, H 2013, Korea student suicide,, viewed 30 January 2021,

Simon and Martina 2013, TL;DR – Mental Health in Korea, YouTube, viewed 31 January 2021,

Watkins, J 2018, South Korea’s Mental Health Problem — That Koreans Don’t Admit, OZY,

Williams, I 2019, Goo Hara left heartbreaking message for friend Sulli after suspected suicide, Metro, viewed 30 January 2021,

World Health Organization (WHO) 2018, WHO: Improving mental health care in Lebanon, YouTube, viewed 31 January 2021,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with
Get started
%d bloggers like this: