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May 28, 2017

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Hold fast to self-worth in face of unfair pressure

On Wednesday, a contestant in the South Korean reality TV show "Jjak" was found to have committed suicide, leaving a note saying that she "couldn't stop crying," according to police. Subsequent media reports indicated that she had told relatives that she was under tremendous stress due to public exposure resulting from her appearance on the show.

"Too many scenes of me being alone ... to highlight matched couples' were shot," the woman surnamed Chun told friends in text messages, according to Chosun Ilbo.

Chun's friends also relayed her complaints that she was being depicted as the "tragic girl" in the show, which is a reality matchmaking contest in which successful pairings are the goal and those rejected are forced to eat alone outside. AFP described the show as exerting intense emotional pressure on its participants.

While the police investigation is ongoing, it is time to say that the tragedy of a young woman's suicide should be a reminder to society that while love and building relationships are wonderful parts of life, no one should be subject to pressure in the pursuit of those things. Embarrassment and admonishment are absolutely the wrong ways to view and treat those who are single.

Our sympathies should be with all those subject to unfair and shaming stereotypes of success and personal worth. We should all, in our own way, challenge attitudes of disapproval against single people in society.

Awareness and support are needed. Being single is a perfectly respectable life choice, and no one should feel that their worth is somehow lessened when they have no partner.

Dating shows, and by extension popular culture, have a responsibility to treat their participants with respect. While searching for a partner can be a fun pursuit, turning the process into an emotionally torturous event is certainly contrary to human dignity.

It is even more vital for all individuals vulnerable to society's mores to stop caring so much about social stereotypes. Adversity may be an unavoidable part of our interaction with a culture that carries the baggage of discrimination. But when confronted by unjust and discriminatory pressure, individuals need to remember their own worth and live life fully.

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