K Pop star Goo Hara has been found dead at her apartment in Seoul just two weeks after launching her comeback tour following a suicide attempt six months ago.
Hara was discovered at her home in the affluent Cheongdam-dong at around 6pm local time and Gangnam police said they were still investigating.
Just days ago she had staged a comeback in Japan, touring the country from November 14 to 19, to promote her new solo single.
Hara earlier this year apologised to her fans for causing a ‘commotion’ after she was discovered unconscious in her apartment in the South Korean capital.
Goo Hara was discovered at her home in the affluent Cheongdam-dong at around 6pm local time, local media reported, and Gangnam police said they were still investigating (pictured: at Galleria Department Store on March 24, 2017 in Seoul, left, and at the 3rd Edaily Culture Awards at Haeorum theater on February 19, 2016, right)
(L-R) Youngji, Gyuri, Seungyeon and Hara of South Korean girl group KARA
Formerly of girl band Kara, she had sparked a frenzy amongst her fans when she wrote, ‘Goodbye,’ on her since deleted Instagram post.
She was found unresponsive by the police at her apartment in the exclusive Gangnam area of Seoul just after midnight on May 30 and was sped to hospital.
‘I am sorry for causing concerns and a commotion,’ Hara told Sankei Sports earlier this year, ‘In terms of health, I am recovering … I had been in agony over a number of overlapping issues.’
She added: ‘But from now on, I will steel my heart and try to show up healthy.’
Since last September the singer and actress had hit headlines in a public row with her ex-boyfriend Choi Jong-Bum, who she accused of blackmailing her with sex tapes the pair had made.
She has also been questioned by police after she allegedly assaulted Choi.
Choi denied Hara’s claims – she was due in court to give evidence at his trial later this week.
Goo Hara at an autograph session for celebrating her essay ‘Nail Hara’ at COEX on July 3, 2015
Hara is not the first K-Pop megastar to feel the intense pressures of the limelight in the controversial industry.
In December 2017, Kim Jong-Hyun, of boy band Shinee, killed himself after suffering from depression.
In a final heartbreaking message the 27-year-old wrote: ‘I’m broken from the inside … The depression that has slowly eaten away at me has finally consumed me, and I couldn’t beat it.’
His death caused grief to millions of fans around the world and focused scrutiny on the Korean pop music industry.
Many K-pop stars face tremendous pressure to look and behave perfectly in an industry powered by so-called ‘fandoms’ – groups of well-organised admirers who spend enormous amounts of time and money to help their favoured stars climb up the charts and attack their perceived rivals.
In return, the stars are expected to tread carefully in an industry where today’s most-fervent fans can be tomorrow’s most vicious critics if their idols fail to meet their expectations – or ‘betray’ them.
Drug use or drunken driving are seen as career-breakers, while behaviour that causes a ‘stir’ – anything from a social media gaffe to a failure to smile ceaselessly at public appearances – could be criticised for years.
Hara attends the ‘Mackage’ 2017 FW Collection photocall in Seoul in 2017 (left) and at the 3rd Edaily Culture Awards at Haeorum theatre in the South Korean capital in 2017 (right)
Many are constantly chased by paparazzi and camera-touting fans who share or sell every single detail and images of the stars’ daily lives online for public scrutiny.
‘These ‘idols’ virtually live in a fishbowl and are pressed to put on a smiley, happy face while behaving nicely 24/7,’ said cultural commentator Kim Seong-Soo, adding the strain could ‘cripple them emotionally’.
Such challenges are common among celebrities around the world, he told AFP, but are amplified in the hyper-wired South, which has some of the world’s fastest internet speeds and highest smartphone usage, and a society where pressure to conform is high.
Taboos about mental illness dissuade many from seeking medical help, including public figures, he added.
The Korean public had been largely sympathetic towards Hara and her tumultuous break-up with Choi garnered support from the #MeToo sexual equality movement in Korea.
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