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.
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