South Korean pop star and actor Cha In Ha has been found dead at the age of 27, the third young Korean star to die in the space of two months.
Cha, who was a member of the K-pop group Surprise U and also had a fledgling acting career, was found at his home. His South Korean talent agency Fantagio saying it was “filled with grief at this news that is still hard to believe”.
A spokesperson said: “We earnestly ask for rumours 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.”
Cha (real name Lee Jae-ho) had recently started an acting career, starring in 2017 short film You, Deep Inside of Me and the TV drama Love With Flaws. Cha’s is the third sudden death of a K-pop star in recent months.
In November K-pop singer Goo Hara was found dead at her home, a few weeks after the death of her close friend and fellow singer Sulli. The deaths of both women drew attention to “toxic” fan culture in Korean, as both artists were subjected to online abuse.
Sulli had been one of the few K-pop stars to speak openly about her mental health problems and her death drew calls for greater emotional support for performers. The deaths also highlighted the problem of Molka, a practice in which women are covertly filmed so that footage can be uploaded to the web.
In 2018, Goo took her ex-boyfriend to court after he threatened to release explicit footage of them which was filmed without her consent. In 2017, 6,400 cases of illegal filming were reported to police, with the figure more than doubling since 2012 when 2,400 cases were recorded. During the trial Goo was subjected to a online abuse and lurid tabloid stories, with experts putting the negative attention down to South Korea’s patriarchal society.
The deaths have shone a light on the pressures that K-pop stars are under. Earlier this year the hugely successful K-pop boy band BTS began a month-long hiatus, with their management saying the break would allow themselves to “enjoy their normal lives as normal twentysomething young men”.
The band – which is worth $3.5bn annually to South Korea’s economy, according to the Hyundai Research Institute – said they would have “extended period of rest and relaxation” to “recharge and refresh as musicians and creators”.