South Korean actor Cha In-ha was found dead in his home, police said yesterday — the country’s third young celebrity to die in the past two months amid growing debate about the intense social pressures that artists face.
In an unrelated case, K-pop star Kang Daniel’s management agency, Konnect Entertainment, said that the former member of the hit boy band Wanna One has decided to take a break from his performing schedule due to “depression and panic attacks.”
The agency said that the 22-year-old has been showing “frequent signs of worsening health and anxiety.”
Kang was a former member of the 11-member Wanna One, which debuted in 2017, and went solo in 2018.
While South Korea’s pop culture mostly projects a wholesome image on stage and screen, it has been marred by a series of untimely deaths and criminal cases that reveal a darker side of the industry.
Cha, 27, was found dead on Tuesday, police said, adding that the cause of the death was not immediately known.
Cha, whose real name is Lee Jae-ho, made his film debut in 2017 and was previously a member of the five-member boy band Surprise U, which released two albums.
The singer-actor posted on Instagram the day before he was found dead, telling his fans to take care in the cold winter.
His South Korean talent agency, Fantagio, said that it is “filled with grief at this news that is still hard to believe.”
“We earnestly ask for rumors not to be spread and for speculative reports not to be released in order for his family — who are experiencing great sadness due to the sudden news — to be able to send him away peacefully,” a Fantagio spokesperson said.
Cha’s death comes after K-pop singer Koo Hara, 28, was found dead in her home last month. She had been subjected to personal attacks on social media.
Her death followed the apparent suicide of a fellow K-pop idol star, Sulli, a former member of girl group f(x), in October. Sulli, 25, had spoken out against cyberbullying.
The cases have cast a dark cloud over the K-pop craze, one of South Korea’s most successful soft power exports, and brought a renewed focus on personal attacks and cyberbullying of young stars that goes largely unpunished.
Kim Dae-han, who said he is the same age as Cha, said that his view of the celebrities has changed over the past few months.
“I think they might be in pain, even though their life looks very fancy,” Kim said.
The industry has also seen a series of sex scandals. Last week, two male former K-pop band members were convicted of sexual assaults and sentenced to prison terms.
Additional reporting by the Guardian
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