‘Woman full of talent with a big heart’: South Korean K-pop star Goo Hara found dead aged 28

Australia
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K-pop idol and TV celebrity Goo Hara has been found dead at her home in Seoul.

Police say an acquaintance found the 28-year-old dead at her home in southern Seoul on Sunday and reported it to authorities.

The cause of death wasn’t immediately known. Police refused to provide further details.

A memorial altar of K-pop star Goo Hara is seen at the Seoul St. Mary's Hospital.

A memorial altar of K-pop star Goo Hara is seen at the Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital.

AAP

SBS PopAsia host Andy Trieu said it was “terrible” news.

“The first thing that crossed my mind was – not another idol. K-pop is very high pressure. Some of the pressures that they face from fans and from the industry itself is just having to make more and more content because K-pop is such a big machine to be fed,” he said. 

“[And] managers and entertainment companies often try to regulate their behaviour and also their public conduct, so this can be quite stressful for K-pop idols.”

Goo Hara was with the group until they disbanded in 2016.

Goo Hara was with the group until they disbanded in 2016.

Getty

Hara made her debut in 2008 as a member of the girl group Kara, which had big followings in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries.

She later worked as a solo artist and appeared on many TV shows.

In May, Hara was reportedly found unconscious at her home and was hospitalised.

She was embroiled last year in public disputes with an ex-boyfriend who claimed to have been assaulted by her.

Hara accused him of having threatened to circulate a sex video of her.

The case made her the subject of tabloid fodder and malicious online messages.

Hara's fans around the world are in mourning.

Hara’s fans around the world are in mourning.

Getty

Amid the dispute, Hara’s agency terminated her contract.

In June, she signed a new contract with leading talent management agency Production Ogi in Japan, where Kara had enjoyed huge popularity.

Under Ogi, Hara appeared on TV shows and major fashion events in Japan. She also released a solo Japanese single Midnight Queen on 13 November.

In October, another K-pop star and actress, Sulli, was found dead at her home near Seoul. She was a close friend of Hara’s.

The 25-year-old was known for her feminism and outspokenness that was rare among female entertainers in deeply conservative South Korea.

Before her death, she appeared in a TV show and spoke out against the online backlash she had received over her lifestyle.

Director of the ANU’s Korea Institute Roald Maliangkay told SBS News the abuse aimed at Sulli is part of a wider trend.

“South Korea still has a long way to go in terms of social equality and gender equality. Part of this is not just misogyny, it’s also young women criticising other women,” he said.

“The celebrities in Korea are under pressure from different angles and that makes it not something that is easy to fix.”

A man prepares flowers for the memorial altar of K-pop star Goo Hara at the Seoul St. Mary's Hospital

A man prepares flowers for the memorial altar of K-pop star Goo Hara at the Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital

Getty

Since the late 1990s, there has been a succession of deaths among young K-pop talent.

Many have complained of depression while others have indicated signs of a highly toxic industry.

In 2009, actress Jang Ja-yeon took her own life, leaving a note claiming that she had been sexually abused by powerful figures in the entertainment industry.

But it’s hoped the recent tragedies will spark change across the industry, and SBS PopAsia’s Mr Trieu is already seeing positive signs.

“A lot of idols have come forward and are starting to take mental health breaks and things like that, and fans are more welcoming of that and same with the entertainment companies. I think that’s positive.”

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (up to age 25). 

More information about mental health is available at Beyond Blue.

With additional reporting from AAP

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