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.
The 28-year-old was discovered at her home in the affluent Cheongdam-dong area at around 6pm local time on Sunday and Gangnam police said investigations are ongoing.
She is not the first K Pop megastar to feel the intense pressures of the limelight in the controversial industry. Last month Sulli, 25, another former girl band member and close friend of Hara’s, was found dead at her apartment after battling ‘severe depression.’
Just days ago Hara had staged a comeback in Japan, touring the country from November 14 to 19, to promote her new solo single.
It followed an apology to her fans earlier this year 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)
From left to right: Youngji, Gyuri, Seungyeon and Hara of South Korean girl group KARA
There has been an outpouring of grief among fans today after news of Hara’s death broke, ‘Sleep well, angel,’ one commented on the star’s final Instagram post
Fans expressed their grief on Hara’s last Instagram post after learning of her death on Sunday
Hara, formerly of girl band Kara, had sparked a frenzy amongst her fans when she wrote, ‘Goodbye,’ on her Instagram.
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 days after her suicide attempt, ‘In terms of health, I am recovering … I had been in agony over a number of overlapping issues.’
Hara attends the 3rd Edaily Culture Awards at Haeorum theater on February 19, 2016 in Seoul, South Korea
Hara, who had spoken out against cyber bullying in the past, pleaded with the public for more positive comments on social media.
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 had also been questioned by police after she allegedly assaulted Choi.
The Korean public had been largely sympathetic towards Hara and her tumultuous break-up with Choi garnered support from the #MeToo sexual equality movement.
On October 14, Hara’s fellow K Pop star Sulli was found dead at her home in Seongnam, Seoul, a month after she sparked controversy by accidentally revealing a nipple on Instagram.
Sulli had previously suffered a huge amount of online abuse in what became known as the ‘no-bra’ scandal after she repeatedly showed her nipples on social media.
It is reported that the pop singer then suspended her music career due to the abuse she had received in conservative South Korea.
Sulli was found by her manager at her home and police said at the time they were working on the assumption that she may have committed suicide.
Hara had posted a tearful message on her Instagram shortly after Sulli’s death, grieving the passing of her friend.
On October 14, Hara’s fellow K Pop star Sulli was found dead at her home in Seongnam, Seoul, a month after she sparked controversy by accidentally revealing a nipple on Instagram
Sulli, 25, had previously suffered a huge amount of online abuse in what became known as the ‘no-bra’ scandal after she repeatedly showed her nipples on social media
K-pop stars like Hara and Sulli are picked up by agencies at a young age – usually in their early or mid-teens – and their lives then taken over by gruelling singing and dancing training.
Taboos about mental illness dissuade many South Koreans from seeking help.
Sulli’s death echoes that of fellow K-pop star Jonghyun, who took his life in 2017 after battling with depression.
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.’
Goo Hara at an autograph session for celebrating her essay ‘Nail Hara’ at COEX on July 3, 2015
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)
A group of young girls are seen breaking down in tears at one of the many gatherings of fans paying their respects to Jong-Hyun in 2017
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.
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