I was going to write about the results of yesterday’s Korean national election, but this news is far too tragic to postpone until tomorrow. Shawn Matthews, one of Korea’s top bloggers, committed suicide on May 23rd in Beijing. His blog was read by thousands, and he was loved by many readers from around the world. My wife introduced his blog to me last year, and I read it occasionally. Last year I blogged about Shawn on two occasions, on June 25 and November 27. His current blog, China Life Blog, has been virtually shut down, but his previous, award-winning blog, Korea Life Blog, is still active. Read it soon because it too may be shut down in the future. All traces of his life in China except for Jake’s post have vanished from the Internet. I hope that Shawn’s Korea blog remains online so that people can read his fine work. He was a very talented blogger.
His friend Jake posted an entry discussing what happened. His ex-girlfriend, Ling Ling, recently started a blog of her own, most likely inspired by Shawn. I won’t speculate on the specifics of Shawn’s death–read Jake’s narrative to learn more about what happened. Shawn’s story reminds me of another tragedy that jarred me when I was younger–the suicide of one of my high school classmates. He was a star basketball player with a full-ride scholarship to play basketball at a state university. He was an excellent student and had what many thought was a rock-solid relationship with his wonderful girlfriend. He was popular and beloved by our hometown. Yet he committed suicide not more than two months after we graduated from high school. The entire community was shocked by his untimely death. Many suspected that breaking up with his girlfriend triggered his death, something I later confirmed with his ex-girlfriend. At the time I felt so mortal, especially after another classmate died a month earlier in a car accident, and a third one nearly drowned. We were high school graduates with a very bright future, but we were scared to death of dying and cognizant of our own mortality. It was a very somber summer.
In case you are wondering why I’ve posted two tragic posts this week–Shawn’s death and the fall of Barbaro–no worries. Life is good here. I’m busy and a bit tired perhaps, but none the worse for wear. Unlike Shawn, I will never live my life online through this blog. Shawn’s blog was appealing to readers partly because he often blogged about his personal life. This may have made him more vulnerable to suicide. When you are popular in any way, even as a blogger, you find yourself under increasing pressure to perform. When you write about the drama in your life, blogging magnifies those feelings. The audience eggs you on and asks for more, more, more. I wish Shawn could have sought comfort and praise through another means. He might still be alive today. Now one of my colleagues is working on helping Shawn’s family return his remains to the U.S. What a sad ending to someone will immense promise.