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Moonbin: In Koreatown, fans mourn the loss of a K-pop star

Sunflowers and white roses filled the table at the makeshift memorial for the late K-pop star Moonbin at the entryway of Choice Music in Koreatown. The record store is in a tucked-away third-floor corner of the Koreatown Galleria at Olympic Boulevard and Normandie Avenue, but all day on Thursday grieving fans stopped by to leave small notes of appreciation for the 25-year-old singer, who died this week.

“You always stay in my life, I’m trying to connect the dots,” one wrote, quoting his group Astro’s song “Dear My Universe.” “Now I can hear you, I can feel you change my world.”

“I love you so much, I’m so sorry you were hurting,” wrote a fan named Steph. “I’ll love you forever and more. Rest in peace, Bin.”

Moonbin, a beloved younger member of the veteran boy-band Astro and older brother of Moon Sua of the group Billie, died at his home in the Gangnam district of Seoul, where he was found Wednesday.

Korean outlet Yonhap News reported that Seoul police said, “It appears that Moonbin took his own life. We are currently discussing the possibility of an autopsy to determine the precise cause of death.”

In a statement, Astro’s management said that “Although we cannot compare our sorrow to the grief that the bereaved families are feeling, losing a beloved son and brother, the Astro members, fellow Fantagio artists, company executives and employees are mourning the deceased in great sadness and shock.”

The group Billie announced they were canceling their upcoming tour dates and appearances.

Moonbin in January 2023.

(The Chosunilbo JNS / ImaZins via Getty Images)

Inside the store, 22-year-old Gigi Hamar cried and consoled a friend who had come to pay respects. Others stood quietly in front of the memorial table and remembered a star known for his close friendships with other artists.

“I remember one moment where another idol had collapsed on stage and Moonbin was right there to support him,” Hamar, 22 said. “Everyone knew him and everyone was friends with him.”

“He was a super-positive person,” said 18-year-old Anna Biasi. “You can see that he was a good guy just from the way he was with his sister.”

Though K-pop fandom mainly circulates online, when tragedy strikes, fans still yearn for a physical place to congregate. On Thursday, the staff of Choice Music, a small store selling records, merchandise, magazines and posters of K-pop stars, tamped down their own sadness to provide some solace for fans.

“We’ve experienced loss as a K-pop community before, and that’s a moment that we all rally around, because it hurts everyone,” said Kika Chatterjee, 27, who works the counter at Choice and helped set up the memorial. “’I’ve shared so many deeply personal moments with customers who were previously strangers. So I’m grateful for the opportunity for connection to people who really need it right now.”

“Moonbin was very close with a lot of other artists that our customer base enjoys,” said Choice staffer Lily Dabbs, 25. “I’m a big fan of Astro’s oldest member, MJ. They had a really good connection where Moonbin was, like, MJ’s baby, and he was always there to lift him up whenever he was down. Moonbin did the same thing for his fans.”

A makeshift memorial at Choice Music in Koreatown.

A makeshift memorial at Choice Music in Koreatown.

(August Brown / Los Angeles Times)

The deaths by suicide of K-pop singers Sulli of f(x) and Jonghyun of SHINee have led to some reflection in the industry about the grueling work schedule and social isolation of its idols.

“Mental health is an ongoing struggle,” Dabbs said. “It’s so hard to know what we or the companies could do.”

“One of the first steps is normalizing therapy,” Biasi said. “A lot of idols have already started talking about their experiences with therapy. That’s a good step.”

On Thursday evening, as a group of half-dozen fans knelt down to lay flowers and write notes at Moonbin’s tribute at Choice, they were glad to to have a place to go to mark the loss and find community to grieve with.

“We should remember his light, the music and all the good things,” said Ariana Mendoza, 18. “We shouldn’t just focus on his passing, but also let people know who he was and what he stood for.”

This story originally appeared on LA Times

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