SEOUL – South Korean actor Cha In-ha was found dead in his home, police said Wednesday, the country’s third young celebrity to die in the past two months amid growing debate about the intense social pressures artists face.
While South Korea’s pop culture mostly projects a wholesome image on stage and screen, it has recently been marred by a series of untimely deaths and criminal cases that reveals a darker side of the industry.
A police official said that Cha, 27, was found dead 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, Goo 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 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 cyber bullying of young stars that goes largely unpunished.
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 assault and sentenced to prison terms.