Cha’s agency, Fantagio, issued a statement confirming his death, saying it was “truly heartbroken to deliver sad news to everyone who has sent lots of love and support” to the actor.
Within the last day, Cha (real name Lee Jae-ho) posted a picture of himself on Instagram posing with a white mug and looking moodily at his phone. “Everybody, watch out,” he wrote.
Cha’s death is the third inside three months of a young South Korean performer. In October, outspoken 25-year-old singer Sulli died shortly after leaving a note that hinted at depression. Last week, 27-year-old K-pop star Goo Hara was found dead at her home in Seoul.
Cha emerged at the forefront of the South Korean entertainment scene only in the past couple of years. He was a member of Fantagio’s actor group Surprise U, and had starred in dramas including “The Banker,” and “Miss Independent Ji Eun 2.” He had recently appeared in MBC drama “Love With Flaws.”
Fantagio asked people not to spread rumors or speculate about Cha’s death, to spare the family unnecessary additional grief. The agency said a private funeral would be held.
The string of deaths young stars points to a grim reality of the South Korean entertainment industry. At the same time as South Korean music and TV dramas are reaching new heights of international popularity, thanks to dramatic story lines, good-looking talent and almost endless rehearsal, the system is increasing being revealed as pressurized and dispiriting.
Pressure appears to come both from demanding management and from fans who use social media to viciously criticize perceived flaws in behavior and image.
In the cases of Sulli and Goo, both were found dead at home, with authorities eliminating foul play. Both appear to have been victims of cyber-bullying with regard to their romantic relationships. Goo and Sulli were close friends.
While there has been no confirmation of the circumstances of Goo’s death, it is known that she attempted to kill herself in March this year after an ex-boyfriend attempted to blackmail her with threats of assault and the release of a sex video. Amid the dispute, Goo’s agency terminated her contract.