There are many idols whose parents inspired them to become K-Pop stars, and Sunmi is no different. However, the real reason why her father was behind her decision to become a celebrity is an unusual and heart-breaking story.
When Sunmi was just around 11 years old, her dad became very ill. He required an oxygen respirator just to breathe at home. When his condition got worse, he even had to be transferred to hospital.
At the time, Sunmi lived only with her two younger brothers and her dad. So, when her dad became immobile and couldn’t provide for the family, Sunmi became the head of the household.
With the whole family facing financial struggles, Sunmi was in turmoil over what to do. Her teachers had inspired her to be a teacher herself, but she knew achieving that goal would take another 10 years at least—and she needed the money now.
As a young child, Sunmi only knew of one way to make money fast: becoming a celebrity. Her father had wanted to become a singer in his youth, too. Inspired by BoA, who was promoting at the time, Sunmi began taking the bus on her own to attend auditions.
Finally, at the age of 14, Sunmi passed JYP Entertainment’s audition and began her life as a trainee. Since she had to train in Seoul, middle schooler Sunmi was forced to leave her younger brothers—just 10 and 12 years old—to look after her father.
Just as caretaking must have been hard for her brothers, training was very difficult on young Sunmi. Her dad still relied on her a lot and would often rant to her, but while she tried to always reply to his messages, sometimes everything became too much to bear.
One day, Sunmi received a new message from her dad which read, “I’m going to leave first”. At the time, she thought it was just another one of her father’s rants, and she didn’t have the energy to text back. But tragically, it was the last message she received from him, as he passed away the next day.
The most heart-breaking part of Sunmi’s journey is that she was just 3 months away from her debut with Wonder Girls when she lost her dad, so he never got to see her achieve the goal she’d worked so hard for.
When she returned home to attend her dad’s funeral, Sunmi was given a letter her dad wrote to her. At the end, he wrote something very touching: “Please be born again as my daughter in the next life”.
While Sunmi was pained by her decision not to pick up the phone that day, when she told the story, she expressed that she felt okay talking about it all because her family is doing well these days. She also sent a video message to her father, assuring him that she’ll always do her best.