A 3rd K-pop star has abruptly died within 2 months, showing the squeaky-clean industry isn’t as wholesome as it seems

By Alexandra Ma | Insider

K-pop star Cha In-ha in an undated picture provided by his management agency. 
Yonhap via Reuters

(This article first appeared Dec 5, 2019)

  • K-pop star Cha In-ha was found dead at his home in Seoul this Tuesday, police announced Wednesday.
  • The 27-year-old’s sudden death follows those of fellow K-pop celebrities Sulli and Goo Hara in October and November.
  • The exact cause of Cha’s death is not yet known, and his management agency asked people not to speculate.
  • Both Goo Hara and Sulli are believed to have died by suicide.
  • It casts a dark shadow over K-pop’s squeaky-clean and wholesome image.
  • Current and former stars previously told Insider that they are held to extremely high beauty standards, forced to follow strict gym and rehearsal schedules, and forbidden to date to seem accessible to fans.
  • Some experts reportedly fear that Sulli, Goo, and Cha’s deaths could trigger the “Werther effect,” which refers to people taking their own lives after widely-publicized instances of suicide.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

K-pop star Cha In-ha was found dead at his home this week, becoming the third abrupt death within the South Korean music industry within two months.

Cha was found dead at his home in Seoul on Tuesday, Reuters reported, citing local police who made the announcement on Wednesday. Cha, whose real name is Lee Jae-ho, was 27.

The exact cause of death is not yet known. His management agency, Fantagio, asked members of the public not to speculate on his death, according to a statement cited by Reuters and the BBC.

Cha in a promotional video for his band at the time, Surprise U, that was published in July 2017. 

Cha was active in both the music and film industry, having been a member of the five-member boyband Surprise U, and appeared in movies since 2017.

His last Instagram post posted two days ago, featuring four photos of him carrying a mug in one hand and a phone in the other, cryptically said in Korean: “Everybody watch out.”

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Cha’s sudden death is the latest in a spate of K-pop celebrity deaths and criminal scandals in recent weeks.

  • In October, the 25-year-old singer and actress Sulli was found dead at home in Seoul by her manager, who hadn’t heard from her for more than 20 hours. A cause of death has not yet been made public, but police had been working on the assumption that it was suicide.
  • Two weeks ago, 28-year-old former girlband member Goo Hara was also found dead at her home in Seoul. Her death came six months after her manager found her unconscious at home in what local media said was an apparent suicide attempt, according to The Guardian.
  • And last week, two former K-pop boyband members — Choi Jong-hoon and Jung Joon-young were sentenced to jail for gang-raping a drunk and unconscious woman.
A composite image of K-pop stars Sulli and Goo Hara. 
Han Myung-Gu/WireImage/Getty Images; Han Myung-Gu/WireImage

All these incidents pose a huge challenge to the industry’s wholesome image. K-pop stars are revered around the world, with fans spending thousands of dollars on gifts to send to their idols.

But the industry also has its dark side. Past and present K-pop stars told Insider earlier this year that they are held to exceptionally high beauty standards, forced to endure grueling gym routines and diets, and are unable to date to remain accessible to fans.

Rising K-pop band Great Guys perform at the Korea Drama Festival in Jinju, South Korea, in October 2019. 
Komeil Soheili/Insider

“The Werther effect”

Sulli and Goo — who were close friends — had both had their squeaky-clean images tarnished and attacked online in the years leading up to their deaths.

Sulli had deviated from the K-pop mold by openly speaking about her mental health and making her relationship with her boyfriend public.

Last year, Goo sued an ex-boyfriend after he threatened to release footage of them having sex, which was filmed without knowledge or consent, The Guardian reported. He was also found guilty of physically assaulting and blackmailing her, the BBC reported.

There had been no reports or indication that Cha, who died this week, had been subject to similar criticism.

South Korean experts are noting that the long string of K-pop deaths could trigger a “Werther effect,” which refers to the phenomenon of people taking their own lives after widely-publicized suicides, The Korea Times reported.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.

SEE ALSO: Grueling gym routines, restrictive diets, and no dating: K-pop stars tell us about the dark side of their industry

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