Goodbye, RiSe

Her father's death pushed her to pursue her music career.Her K-pop girl group Ladies Code was also touted as the one to watch this year.

But Japan-born singer RiSe, 23, died on Sunday from injuries sustained in a road accident in South Korea last Wednesday.The accident also killed group member EunB, 21, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

RiSe revealed on a Korean variety show that her dad's death pushed her to pursue her music career, and she joined the five-member Ladies Code when the opportunity arose last year.

Fans of RiSe have been overwhelmed by the double tragedy that struck her family.Many social media posts encouraged RiSe's mum to stay strong after her devastating loss.

Support 

Local fan Cherlyn Tay, 16, said: "RiSe's story struck a chord with me because I admired how strong and determined she was after losing her dad at such a young age.

The student added: "After news broke that she died, all I could think about was her mum. I can't imagine someone losing both husband and daughter in a matter of years. How do you recover from something like that?"

Another fan, student Kimberly Navin, 17, said: "I know that many people are saying that death always seems more tragic when it happens to a celebrity.

"But that is true because in a way, we feel that we know them from all the time spent watching their videos and interviews. I felt very sad reading all the messages for RiSe's mum.

"Even EunB's mum had left RiSe's mum a message of hope for RiSe's recovery after her own daughter died." Last Wednesday, Ladies' Code, their manager and stylist were in a van that slammed into a protective wall on the Yeongdong Expressway in South Korea.

They were heading for Seoul in wet weather after a TV appearance in Daegu. At EunB's wake last Friday, her mother left a touching message for RiSe's loved ones after finding out that she was still unconscious after 36 hours.

South Korean media reported EunB's mother as saying: "RiSe will be alright. Don't worry. Our EunB will protect RiSe before she leaves." At that time, RiSe, who had severe cranial and abdominal injuries, was in a coma in the intensive care unit. The swelling of her brain and falling blood pressure left doctors with no choice but to stop a fourth operation mid-way.

She died without regaining consciousness. Another member, Sojung, 21, had fractured bones. The group's agency, Polaris Entertainment, said in a statement that the other two members, Ashley, 22, and Zuny, 19, the manager and stylist, had no serious injuries.

Questions are being raised about the accident. Korean media reported that the van's airbags didn't deploy.Police inspector Lee Ho-dong told AP that the van driver may have been speeding to meet a tight schedule.

He said: "We are investigating the exact cause of the accident. But it's difficult because the highway section where the crash occurred did not have a closed-circuit television camera." An in-car camera in the van had been sent to the National Forensic Service.

Before she was RiSe, she wanted to be Miss Korea

Tributes to RiSe have been flooding the Internet since her death as fans shared stories that celebrated her life. The 23-year-old Korean singer, who was born Kwon Ri Sae in Fukushima City, Japan, was affectionately known as the "mother" of Ladies' Code because of her caring and protective nature.

She was especially close to EunB, 21, who died shortly after the accident last Wednesday. Ladies' Code, a rookie K-pop girl group, made their debut with the mini-album Code#01 last March.

Last month, the music video for their latest single, Kiss Kiss, was released on Loen Music's official YouTube channel. Before RiSe joined the band last year under management agency Polaris Entertainment, she was a model and Miss Korea 2009 contestant.

Winners from the pageant go on to compete in international pageants such as Miss World and Miss Universe. RiSe was also one of the top 12 finalists in the first season of Korean TV talent scouting show, Star Audition The Great Birth (2010).

Her only controversy was being accused of being part of Jo Chong Ryun, the North Korean organisation in Japan, after it was discovered she had performed in front of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

No choice 

Her previous management agency, Key East Entertainment, said it was a misunderstanding. Its spokesman told Korean media agency Sports Seoul: "It is true that Kwon Ri Sae, a fourth generation Korean-Japanese immigrant, attended Chosun School, which is part of Jo Chong Ryun.

"But there weren't that many Korean schools in Japan back then, and Ri Sae was living in a small town so she didn't have much choice. We heard there were only five students per class." According to the report, RiSe showed exceptional skills as a professional dancer in school and was invited to perform during Kim Jong Il's birthday party in North Korea.

The spokesman added: "She was in elementary school (then) and you don't really have a political opinion at that age."

How to deal with loss

Bereavement over the loss of loved ones can be devastating and affects everyone differently, says Ms Devanshi Shah, who works with Brightside Counselling.

She said: "Talking and sharing your feelings with someone can help. Most people prefer to talk to family members but if that is not possible, then a grief counsellor can provide you time and safe space to talk about the loss even if it has been a long time since the loss."

Here are five ways to overcome grief:

1) Acceptance of the loss by verbalising and expressing feelings connected with the departed loved ones.

2) Understanding the process of grieving by attending a grief support group or meeting someone who has coped with such a loss.

3) Saying goodbye to loved ones by writing a grief letter to them or by doing rituals related to the death.

4) Adjusting your daily routine. Put less energy into grieving and more energy into something new. Be more positive and have optimistic thoughts about the future.

5) Normally, the loss is felt for 18 months. A counsellor's help and family support can help one get over grief more quickly. A general practitioner can recommend a grief counsellor. Typically 12 to 15 sessions are needed.

cchar@sph.com.sg

This article was published on Sept 9 in The New Paper.

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