Remembering Moonbin

Yesterday, April 19, it was reported that Korean star 문빈, romanized as both Moonbin and Moon Bin, passed away. The singer-songwriter-actor-variety personality was 25. He had been active in the entertainment industry since childhood, and was part of boy band Astro, and the unit Moonbin & Sanha. His sister Moon Sua is a member of girl group Billlie.

The loss of a star as bright as Moonbin is something too raw to really comprehend.

I don’t ever want to write a eulogy, both as a professional and on a personal level, but it feels terribly wrong not to spend some time this week to reflect on Moonbin’s career. It’s impossible to commemorate the life and impact of a person in a handful of words, but words are what we have, along with our memories.

In Judaism, we don’t say “rest in peace.” We say “may their memory be a blessing.” So here are some of mine that I’m thinking a lot since I heard the news, both recent and otherwise. They’re providing me some comfort and perspective amid this tragedy, and I hope they do the same for you, readers. I hope today, and everyday after, is kind to you.


Unwittingly, I encountered Moonbin a lot longer than I ever knew who he was as first a Fantagio trainee, and then a member of Astro. He was part of my pop culture memory since I first got into Korean entertainment back in high school. His earliest appearance was in TVXQ!’s 2006 iconic music video for Balloons, ten years before Astro debuted in 2016. Along with a variety of other performances, he notably appeared in the 2009 hit drama Boys Over Flowers, he played the younger version of Kim Bum’s character. How many people subscribed to this newsletter haven’t watched that, I wonder?

When he debuted, Moonbin was known especially as a dancer, but also offered a distinct vocal tone into the Astro medley. He rapidly became known as an all-rounder, a legacy that has proven true time and time again. Over the years, he frequently contributed lyrics to the band’s songwriting, and in in 2020, he and Sanha created their own subunit.

I’ve always appreciated ASTRO (their Dream albums are especially favorites of mine), and Moonbin within it. Everytime getting to see them perform live or release a new album was like a gift wrapped in a promise of not being able to disappoint.

I met and interviewed them only once for Billboard, back in at an absolute mess of K-pop festival in NYC. We did the interview backstage, amid crowded stage props and noisy activity. The members were all charming and engaging, putting their all into an event that was clearly not giving it all back to the entertainers and fans. I reread it yesterday and had a good, bittersweet laugh; throughout the writeup, I had written “Moon Bin,” “Moonbin,” and, the appalling typo, “Moonjin.” (Sorry, both Moonbin and Jinjin!)

More recently, few months ago, I went with a friend of mine, a huge Aroha (one of Astro’s fans), to see the STARGAZER: ASTROSCOPE documentary. The camaraderie at the Times Square theater was wonderful, with fans handing out freebies before (stickers and the like) and excitedly enjoying the concert experience together throughout the film

A recurring theme, I felt as I was watching, was “Moonbin as a performer.” It felt so pervasive of a narrative, that for weeks after, I kept pulling up various performances, trying to just engage with his artistry. It felt wrong to watch him on the small screen of my monitor after seeing him in all his silver screen glory.

The dancing has always been a major part of who Moonbin is, and its pervasive with every stage of his career; this is a person whose art is physical and theatrical, as the best dance creatives are, and he thrives while blending those traits. It’s too heartbreaking to consider that we’ll never see this artistry anew again.

More recently, I launched this newsletter’s “Five minute focus” audio interviews with Moonbin & Sanha sharing their thoughts on scents, in line with their Incense release. I can’t bring myself to listen to it, but since I heard the news I kept thinking of one quote, about his hopes for the album.

“I've always thought of a scent as a medium for memories, and we built this album's concept around scent, hoping our album to become a medium that takes listeners back to their memories. On top of that, now I want to add another meaning to the word “incense” - eternal. I think going back to the past and reminiscing can be done anytime, and any memory can be everlasting.”

May Moonbin’s memory be everlasting.


Although it is not confirmed, the reported cause of death was speculated suicide. If you, or someone you love, is struggling with mental health and suicide ideation, please seek help and support. If you are in need of a crisis hotline, Wikipedia has a list compiling many countries’.