Cha In-ha found dead in latest Korean pop-culture tragedy

Actor and former K-pop bandmember Cha In-ha was found dead in his home, South Korean police said on Wednesday, the country’s third young celebrity to die in the past two months amid growing debate about the intense social pressures artists face.

A police official told Reuters that Cha, 27, was found dead on Tuesday and 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 had left an Instagram post the day before he was found dead, telling his fans to take care in the cold winter.

His talent agency Fantagio in a statement expressed “the deepest mourning for his passing” and asked the public and the media to refrain from spreading stories about his death.

Cha’s death comes after a K-pop singer, Koo Hara, 28, was found dead at 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 cyber bullying.

The industry has also been hit by a series of sex scandals. Last week, two male former K-pop band members were convicted of sexual assaults and sentenced to prison terms. 

The cases have cast a 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 cyber bullying of young stars that goes largely unpunished.

While South Korea’s pop culture mostly projects a wholesome image on stage and screen, it has recently been marred by the series of untimely deaths and criminal cases that revealed a darker side of the industry to fans in the country as well as abroad.

Lee Maria, 52, said it was heartbreaking to see talented young artists making “tragic choices” but what was more alarming was the possible infectious nature of the action they are taking among the young fans as an option “to escape some desperate situation.”

Kim Dae-han, who said he was the same age as Cha, said his view of the celebrities has changed after the recent deaths: “I think they might be in pain even though their life looks very fancy.”

Also on Wednesday, K-pop star Kang Daniel’s management agency Konnect Entertainment said the former member of the hit boy band Wanna One has decided to take a break from his performing schedules due to “depression and panic attacks.”

The agency said the 22-year-old has recently been showing “frequent signs of worsening health and anxiety.”

Kang was a former member of the 11-member Wanna One, which debuted in 2017. He went solo in 2018.


Where to get help:

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (phone) | 45645 (text) | crisisservicescanada.ca (chat).

In Quebec (French): Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553).

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (phone), www.kidshelpphone.ca (live chat counselling).

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre.

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