K-pop star Siwon Choi opens up about ‘hate comments’ online and overcomes it after feeling ‘scared’

Siwon Choi

Siwon Choi

UNICEF Korea (ⓒ UNICEF Korea) Siwon Choi

K-pop star Siwon Choi opens up about his involvement in UNICEF – and the impact it has had on him since

The Super Junior band member first joined UNICEF Korea in 2010 and has since largely contributed to humanitarian children’s problems involving childhood development, Internet security, education, bullying, medicine and social policy.

For example, during the pandemic, Choi chaired online friendliness youth conferences, where he spoke in panels and worked directly with children to educate them about Internet security. Most recently, the star has also donated $ 100 million to his campaign for climate change as part of UNICEF’s life donation campaign.

In honor of his work with the organization, the star, 35, spoke with PEOPLE about his experiences, lessons and most cherished memories with UNICEF.

Siwon Choi

Siwon Choi

UNICEF Korea (ⓒ UNICEF Korea) Siwon Choi

How did you first become involved with UNICEF? Are there any UNICEF ambassadors you have admired?

There are many UNICEF ambassadors I would like to learn from and emulate, but one of the ones I think about most would be Audrey Hepburn. Not only was she the best actress of her time, but she impressed us all with her modesty as she lay down and reached out to places in need of help. After retiring, she dedicated herself to helping communities in need in Africa, South America, and Asia. Even during her fight against cancer, she showed such devotion to UNICEF, and it is this beautiful heart she has shown that I believe is a great example to all.

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Can you share some of the most meaningful and life-changing moments you have had during your work and trips with UNICEF?

I once attended a conference in Malaysia in 2018 that focused on cyberbullying. The conference featured very sincere stories from presenters and also a Q&A session. Many of them at the conference assumed that I probably had not experienced or received any malicious comments before. When it was my turn to speak, someone asked me, “As a K-pop artist, you receive so much love and support from fans, so I suppose you might not relate to our matches. What would you do if you received such hateful comments online? “

I was a little surprised when I first heard this question, but I calmly shared my answer and talked about the time I received over a thousand hate comments online and how I was scared and scared at the time. But what I came to realize is that people can talk about me online, but those words have no physical power over me. I told them not to be scared and if they are ever exhausted or having a hard time let me know because I want to be there.

After the conference, I was on my way to the airport to go to Brunei. I checked my social accounts and even though I am not immediately able to check the DMs I get from those I do not follow, there were two messages that caught my attention that day. They came from two different individuals and they sent me a message to tell that they had considered making some extreme decisions but got courage and changed their mind after hearing me speak. Many ambassadors go on excursions to provide assistance, but I realized that my calling as part of UNICEF could be more for people online. It was the moment that really influenced me to use my voice to speak up and protect the young users of the online community that are around the world.

Siwon Choi

Siwon Choi

UNICEF Korea (ⓒ UNICEF Korea) Siwon Choi

What have you learned from the children you have met and spent time with through UNICEF?

The children I met taught me to be ‘grateful’ and ‘appreciate’ the things in our daily lives that we easily ignore and take for granted. These are the two main points I have learned from seeing children find such true happiness over even the smallest things.

Many young people struggle with the pressure of being “perfect” on social media. As someone with a huge platform and followers, what do you hope young people can bring from social media? Do you have any advice for them on how to stay mentally healthy and avoid the discouragement that can come with social media?

I do not know if I can give the best advice that is needed, but if I were to try, I would like to start by saying that social media today is not just a simple platform where users share their daily lives with friends. It is a space where people can almost share hope, love and comfort or even courage. While my answer will never be sufficient, I would like to add that each one has their own mission, and I hope that people will use social media to communicate with others while finding their own calling and mission instead of just use it as social media.

Siwon Choi

Siwon Choi

UNICEF Korea (ⓒ UNICEF Korea) Siwon Choi

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You were the only person selected from Asia to be part of UNICEF Next Generation’s global leadership team. What does it mean for you to be an ambassador for your country on such a global scale and be honored in this way?

There are times when I feel a great responsibility, but I am very grateful for the opportunity to relate humbly and sincerely to many young friends closer than before. I always hope to have an open mind when I use my voice to speak for them.

What do you hope to achieve through your commitment to UNICEF Next Generation?

One thing I realized during these field trips is that there are still policies that can be improved to better reflect on the problems and problems of this generation. I can not specify it, but I think nothing would be more rewarding than being able to commit myself deeply to actively addressing the parts that need to be improved and to proposing related policies that will help our young people friends.

Visit www.unicefusa.org/helpnow to support UNICEF USA.

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