Last October, K-pop singer Goo Hara took to Instagram and completely broke down. She was mourning the loss of fellow K-pop star Sulli, a former member of the wildly popular girl group f(x). Sulli had died by suicide, found the day before by her manager, no note left behind.
In her livestream, Hara’s tear-stained face was swollen with grief. She didn’t comment on the circumstances surrounding Sulli’s death—instead, for three minutes, she spoke as if she were saying goodbye to her best friend. Her “sister.” She apologized that she would have to miss the funeral because she was stuck out of the country for work.
A little over a month later, Hara, too, would take her own life.
The thing about K-pop is that while other music might make you feel moody or mad at your ex or over it all, K-pop makes you feel good.
The sticky, upbeat songs never get unstuck from your brain, and you don’t want them to. Artists are both memes and icons, putting on the kinds of performances that require all caps to describe. Impressive for a class of music that’s new(ish): It really took off in 2012 around the time Psy’s hit “Gangnam Style” went viral. Today, it’s a multibillion-dollar business. Boy band BTS brings in $3.6 billion to South Korea’s economy every year all by themselves.