Dear Jinri: Social Expectations and Self Expression

The late K-pop sensation, Sulli, was working on a Netflix documentary before dying by suicide in 2019. Dear Jinri is based on her real-life experiences.


From sky-high expectations within the South Korean music industry to vicious cyberbullying, Sulli was suffering silently in the spotlight. Dear Jinri pays tribute to Sulli and the pressures she faced for years leading up to her death.

Trigger warning: Mention of suicide.

Click and read this if you have suicidal thoughts and please get help immediately.

“What did I do to deserve this… I’m not a bad person. I’m sorry.”
Sulli’s last Instagram Live days before ending her life
Instagram: @jelly_jilli

When did it all begin? How did Sulli get targeted?

Social Expectations

“Since you are born as a pretty woman, you don’t have to know anything,” recalls Sulli. “But it’s obnoxious to say your life was hard because you are a pretty woman.”

Sulli (birth name: Jin-ri, meaning ‘truth’) was lonely as a child. She was devalued as a person and fed the harmful messages about self-perception that looks meant everything.

Equivalent to that social expectation would be how grades define us. Internalizing that belief is one dimensional discounting our self-worth. There is much more than just looks, grades and the accolades that social media seduces us with.

Photo via Official Dear Jinri trailer

Self Expression

As Sulli moved into the music industry, she was told to view herself as a ‘product’ and to work towards the goal of becoming one of the ‘highest quality’. In the South Korean music industry, a celebrity would have to abide to the unrealistic standards of public perception to stay popular.

Photo via IMDb

Sulli however, had plans to forge her own unique path. Always rooting for women who spoke out, she decided against wearing a bra in public  and in turn, she received abusive comments online condemning her.

In an individualistic sociaty, Sulli’s dress preference would be celebrated. However, in the collectivist society that she worked within, conservative social norms were expected.

We all have a choice to be our unique self but we need wisdom to understand the culture that we operate in. When choosing to be your true authentic self around people, be mindful of who you decide to open up to. Are they trustworthy? Are they supportive friends? Would your genuine self be accepted by them?

Photo via Official Dear Jinri trailer

Suicidal thoughts and prevention

Suicide is often complex with many factors contributing to the completion. As there are pressures and risk factors that can tip a person over, we need to search for protective factors that can provide the support and hold the person in a safe space when going through difficulties in life.

We can all play a part in the prevention of suicide:


Social Media

Be mindful of how our words can impact others on social media. We can either unwittingly contribute to, or prevent cyberbullying 

Manage the boundaries in our lives. Be careful about what and whom we share to on social media


Reach out to our friends

If anyone around you is not quite themselves, please reach out. They may appear withdrawn or unusually chirpy for no good reason. Go with your hunch and check out on them. It’s better to be wrong about that hunch than to lose a friend.

Click to read what you can do:

Have a chat to show you care

What you can do when a friend talks about suicidal. 

When your friend is self-harming

Letter to a friend who has suicidal thoughts

There is always hope

If you are thinking that life has no meaning and that it’s better to end it all, please STOP and give us 3 min to read this 

Your life is precious. There is always a way out of any situation, there are people who can help you.

SOS helpline


Click below for help

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