Korean American K-pop stars promote mental health awareness

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Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2016 file photo, South Korean-American singer-songwriter Eric Nam, poses for the photographers on the red carpet of the 2016 Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA) in Hong Kong. Korean American K-pop singers, including Nam, are sharing their experiences with stress in a series of podcasts addressing mental health issues to raise awareness beyond the K-pop community. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

SEOUL – K-pop star Eric Nam was having a meeting in New York when he suddenly felt a pain in his chest.

“I thought I was going to have to call 911,” he said, recounting the experience from 2019. But instead he remained sitting and “had to quietly breathe my way” through the meeting, he said.

Similarly, Jae-hyung Park, better known as Jae from K-pop band “Day6,” was in a cab returning from a music video shoot in Seoul last year when he experienced what felt like a heart attack.

At first, he put it down to stress, saying that for years he had dealt with “out of place” and “weird" feelings. But he realized he couldn't ignore the symptoms, and in the “calmest voice” asked the driver to take him to a nearby hospital.

“I’m ... feeling like I am going to die, I am going to die, I am going to die,” he recounted.

Park and Nam said they later found out they had suffered panic attacks.

Many recording artists struggle to cope with the trappings of fame. In South Korea, as in many cultures, talking about mental health issues is seen as taboo, causing K-pop stars to grapple with depression and mental illness on their own.

Nam and Park have joined other Korean American K-pop artists in raising awareness about mental health beyond the K-pop community by publicly sharing their personal journeys.