The Deaths of K-Pop Idols Under the Age of 40
Life is a mysterious journey. Nobody can tell whether it will be good or bad, long or short. The best thing we can do about life is to make the most of each day. Live your life to the fullest, they say. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same fate in life. These idols came into the limelight and, despite their fame, left with a sorrowful ending. Here is the list of 10+ K-Pop idols who have passed away due to various reasons:
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1. Choi Jin-young – 39
November 17, 1970 – March 29, 2010
Choi Jin Young was the younger brother of South Korea’s best actress, Choi Jin-sil. He was an actor and a singer. He rose to fame through a popular TV series called Our Paradise in 1993. Many people found resemblance between him and his sister, but that did not help his acting career improve further. Choi returned as a singer named Sky after he finished his military service. His first album Final Fantasy received great success with his single Forever that later become one of the classic songs. Unfortunately, Choi fell into depression after his sister committed suicide. Close friends stated that Choi had been involved in suicide attempts several times in 2009 and refused to seek help despite his mother’s plea. He was later found dead. He hanged himself with an electrical cord in the attic of his apartment on March 29, 2010 in Nonhyeon-dong, Seoul.
2. Ahn Jae-hwan – 36
June 8, 1972 – September 8, 2008
Ahn Jae-hwan was a South Korean actor. He acted in several TV series, such as Do the Right Thing (2003) and Diamond Tears (2005). One morning on September 8, 2008, Ahn was found dead in his car in an apparent suicide via asphyxiation, or carbon-monoxide poisoning. Police revealed the eerie details of the discovery where they said Ahn had probably died days before the 8th as his body was already decaying upon discovery. Debts prompted Ahn to end his life.
3. Choi Jin-sil – 36
December 24, 1968 – October 2, 2008
Choi Jin-sil was The Nation’s Actress. Her acting was excellent and so was her career. She began acting in TV commercials before landing roles in many notable projects, such as My Love, My Bride (1990), MBC drama Jealousy (1992), My Rosy Life (2005), and The Last Scandal of My Life (2008). She even hosted her own reality show Choi Jin-sil ‘Truth and Lie’ in 2008. However, her life started to take a turn when her former manager, Bae Byeong-Su, who was an influential figure in the entertainment field, was murdered by her road manager in 1994. She was suspected to have taken a part in the murder and since then received defamation from an unknown individual. It was also revealed that her husband, baseball player, Cho Sung Min (m. 2000), had been abusing Choi throughout the last two years of their marriage. He committed a breach of marital fidelity, violence, and defamation against his wife from 2002 – 2004 and they eventually got a divorce. In 2008, Choi received more pressure when she was yet again suspected to have caused another death. This time was the suicide of her close friend and fellow actor Ahn Jae-hwan. Choi was accused to have acted as a loan shark in Ahn’s death. Following Ahn’s death in September 2008, Choi committed suicide on October 2, 2008.
4. Jang Jin-young – 35
June 14, 1974 – September 1, 2009
Jang Jin Young was an actress with an amazing record. She won two Blue Dragon Film Awards for Best Actress, first for Sorum in 2001 and again for Singles in 2003. She was also one of the highest paid actresses in South Korea throughout 2008. An amount of USD 354,000 per film was her income at that time. Unfortunately, during a regular health check in 2008, Jang was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She had been experiencing stomach pains while eating but she had thought that it was stomach ulcer. The actress was treated between 2008 and 2009 however her health eventually deteriorated and cancer took her life away.
5. Park Yong-ha – 32
August 12, 1977 – June 30, 2010
Park Yong-ha was a successful actor and singer when his life took a dark turn. Park was found dead at his home. He hanged himself with camcorder charger cable. Despite his previous success in releasing a Japanese album and holding concerts in both Korea and Japan, Park struggled in managing his entertainment company, his career and was coping with his father’s cancer. Park was first known from his role in Winter Sonata as Kim Sang-hyeok alongside Bae Yong-joon and Choi Ji-woo.
6. Lee Seo-hyun (M.Street) – 30
1978 – December 1, 2008
Lee Seo-hyun was the lead singer of boy group M.Street and a devoted Christian. His death was both shocking and mysterious. Lee committed suicide by hanging in a recording studio where a suicide note was also found. He expressed his apology towards his family, friends, and fans. However, it was still unclear as to why Lee ended his life, especially when the group was doing fairly well in the industry with their comeback Tension.
7. Kim Seok-kyun – 30
1979 – January 17, 2009
Kim Seok-kyun was an actor who had tried his best. At the age of 26, he had a role in a short film and continued starring in shorts until the age of 30. However, he remained largely unknown to the audience. Years of stagnation in his career and failures brought Kim to the ultimate decision to end his life. Kim was found hanging with an apology note to his family.
8. Jang Ja-yeon – 29
January 25, 1980 – March 7, 2009
Jang Ja-yeon’s death is quite unsettling. The beautiful persona was known from her role in Boys Before Flower as Sunny, one of the three mean girls. She committed suicide by hanging at her home. Her death became a scandal when it was revealed that Jang suffered clinical depression due to the sexual and physical abuse that she had received during her career. She was forced by her agent to have sex with a string of VIPs, including directors, media executives and CEOs and was beaten when she didn’t carry out the orders properly. Her agent Kim Sung-hoon, however, declined this accusation and he was never charged against.
9. Lee Eon – 27
February 5, 1981 – August 21, 2008
Lee Eon, born Park Sang-min, was a model turned actor. He’s most well known role was in Coffee Prince as Hwang Min-yeop along with Gong Yoo. He even won the 1st Korea Drama Awards for that role. Lee tragically died from a motorcycle accident when his motorcycle hit the guardrail of an overpass in Hannam-dong, Seoul, at around 2 AM. He was driving home from a party celebrating the final episode of Strongest Chil Woo. Gong Yoo took leave from his military service to be able to hold Lee’s memorial tablet in the procession to the grave site.
10. Jeong Da Bin – 26
March 4, 1980 – February 10, 2007
Jeong Da-bin was first known from the hit television series Rooftop Room Cat (also known as Attic Cat or Cat on the Roof). She also took on the leading role in her first film He Was Cool in 2004. She then continued to work on other projects until her last one in 2005, That Summer’s Typhoon with Han Ye-seul. Unfortunately, it did not do well in the ratings. Jeong was not in any other project afterwards. When news of her emerged again, it was grim. In 2007, Jeong was reported dead. She was found hanged with a bath towel in her boyfriend’s house in Gangnam. Jeong’s boyfriend, Lee, stated that he took her back to his place after knowing that she was drunk during a night out. The police had suspected foul play; however, the postmortem declared that it was suicide. It was further revealed that Jeong apparently had been suffering from extreme depression due to the imprisonment of her previous manager and malicious online discrimination towards her body.
11. Rottyful Sky – 25
March 22, 1988 – October 8, 2013
Rottyful Sky, also known as Haneul, first debuted at 14 years old. She was one of the most loved rising idols along with BoA, Joanne, and Dana. When she was 23, she turned into a singer/songwriter and returned as Rottyful Sky. Her song Blue Bird for the TV series Scent of a Woman successfully garnered people’s attention. Unfortunately, in 2012, the singer was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She stopped all of her activities to undergo intense treatment. At one point, she had looked better. But the disease eventually took over the singer’s life at 25 years old.
12. U;Nee – 25
May 3, 1981 – January 21, 2007
U;Nee, born Lee Hye-ryeon, was one of K-Pop’s first generation multitalented artist. She could sing, rap, dance, and even act. Lee changed her name legally into Heo Yoon before debuting as a professional artist and used her stage name U;Nee. She debuted in 2003 as a dance-pop singer. In many of her songs, she also filled in for the rap part. Two years later, her agency decided to market U;Nee as a sexy singer. She made a comeback with a sexy R&B track entitled Call Call Call. In order to sell more from this new image, U;Nee had to undergo several plastic surgeries, including breast enlargement, and slight alteration on her jaw and nose. In 2007, U;Nee committed suicide by hanging herself due to depression, pressure from fame and personal problems.
13. Sung In-kyu (A’st1) – 24
November 18, 1988 – February 22, 2013
Sung In Kyu was one of the singers of DSP Entertainment’s boy group A’st1, which disbanded a year after they debuted in 2008. In 2011, he revealed that he was suffering from thymus cancer to his fans and since then began receiving chemotherapy treatments. Two years of treatment did not end well as Sung succumbed to his illness and was pronounced dead on February 22, 2013.
14. Woo Seung-yeon – 24
May 24, 1983 – April 27, 2009
Woo Seung-yeon was another rookie actress that suffered from the harsh conditions in the movie industry. She rose to fame as an internet ulzzang (meaning “best face” or “good-looking”) and she got into modelling afterwards. She eventually branched out into acting where she made and appearance in the movie Herb, the mobile sitcom Yap, and another movie called Private Eye. Yet she lost her battle with depression when she was found hanging in her closet in 2009. Her mother explained that her daughter fell into depression after failing an audition and breaking up with her long-term boyfriend.
15. Lee Eun-ju – 24
December 22, 1980 – February 22, 2005
Lee Eun-ju was a South Korean actress. She landed her very first role on the infamous Korean director Hong Sang-soo’s movie entitled Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors. Her appearance was mesmerizing that she left quite the impression in the eyes of Korean filmmakers. Her career became steady and promising as she played alongside actor Lee Byung-hoon in Bungee Jumping of Their Own (2001) and Cha Tae Hyun in the hit melodrama, Lover’s Concerto (2002).
The prominent actress starred in several other titles before she was reported dead in 2005. Lee slit her wrists before hanging herself. It was said that her role in The Scarlet Letter in the latter year of 2004 had taken a toll on her. In the movie, Lee had to go through a nude scene that haunted her. It was revealed from her family that throughout that year, Lee had been suffering from extreme depression, mental illness, and insomnia.
16. Kwon Rise – 23
August 16, 1991 – September 7, 2013
Kwon Rise, known as Rise, was a member of a rising K-Pop girl group Ladies’ Code. The van the group was riding crashed into a guardrail due to speeding on a rain-drenched road. Rise and EunB were the ones impacted with fatal injuries. EunB unfortunately was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital while Rise was rushed for emergency brain surgery the same time. After the surgery, Rise remained unconscious. She eventually went into brain failure four days later and died. Her last performance with the group was during the promotion of Kiss Kiss, a single from their first full album after making much success with several singles.
17. Go Eun-bi – 22
November 23, 1992 – September 3, 2013
Go Eun-bi, known as EunB, was the only member of Ladies’ Code who died on the scene of the crash. Rise died four days later, while Ashley, Zuny, and Sojung sustained mild to heavy injuries. EunB’s last performance with the group was also Kiss Kiss. Interestingly, some fans mentioned that the music video somewhat had predicted the death of EunB. There was a scene where the members were visiting a dead guy in a coffin. When EunB was the one visiting, the guy woke up and sat up to give EunB a kiss. EunB literally received a ‘kiss of death’. Could it really be?
18. Ahn So-jin – 22
May 25, 1992 – February 24, 2015
Ahn So-jin was yet to debut as a girl group member, but she had gained her fame through DSP Entertainment’s KARA Project in 2014. She was one of the most prominent contestants as well as a candidate to be chosen as the new member of senior girl-group KARA although eventually the spot went to Heo Young-ji. Ahn committed suicide by jumping from her apartment balcony. She was found unconscious in the garden next to the building but failed to be treated as she passed away on the way to the hospital. Ahn was known as a good leader and a mature person. Her ultimate decision caused shock to many. Fans, however, pointed out that her suicide may be prompted by her age, whereas 22 years old was considered too old to be starting in the industry. But no certain reason had been stated yet.
19. Seo Jae-ho (Wanted) – 22
November 16, 1981 – August 11, 2004
Seo Jae-ho was a member of a boy group Wanted. The singer met his death when he was involved in a car accident in 2004. He was driving to the recording studio at that time. Police ruled that Seo may have been tired while driving and so he lost control of the wheel. The group became a 3-member group after his passing and reportedly with only one full album entitled Like the First.
20. Kang Doo-ri – 22
January 28, 1993 – December 14, 2015
Kang Doo-ri was a rising actress from her appearance on Sassy Go Go and the entertaining mukbang (eating show) host. She shocked the Korean entertainment world when she was reported dead due to a car accident. Or at first it was thought so. Police went further into the investigation and found out that the accident had been actually a suicide. Before taking her life away, Kang had texted her friend stating that she would put her life to an end. She apparently had been suffering from “bad personal problems” that she didn’t feel she had the power to overcome.
21. Kim Daul – 20
May 31, 1989 – November 19, 2009
Kim Daul was, if not the baddest, the most promising South Korean model for the international modeling industry at her time. She was only 17 years old when she posed for the cover of Vogue Korea. Her sharp expression and charming aura was definitely her most memorable virtues. She was the face of Korea for the international eye. She was a blogger and a painter, too. Everything a girl dreamed to be.
Not yet getting any older than 17, Daul had the international spotlight on her and her alone. The young model partnered up with many notable names, like Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood, Chanel, Alexander McQueen and Christopher Cane after making her international catwalk debut at the Paris Fashion Week in 2007. But deeper than the fame and the glam, Kim Daul was lonely and trapped. Kim Daul took her own life. She was found dead and hanging in her Parisian apartment on November 19, 2009. It was revealed that she felt pressured by the industry and that she kept fighting with her boyfriend without being able to walk away from the relationship. Before her death, she posted several messages that resonated with her final decision.
October 26: “So many times I almost jumped but didn’t.”
October 30: “Mad depressed and overworked, the more I gain, the more lonely it is. I know I’m like a ghost.”
November 15: “Oh but how lonely it is. Then and now.”
November 18, Kim’s last post: “Say hi to forever.”
22. Kim Jong-hyun “SHINee” – 27
Kim Jong-hyun, the lead singer of the hugely popular and influential South Korean boyband SHINee, has died at the age of 27. The star, better known as Jonghyun, was found unconscious at his home in Seoul on Monday evening in an apparent suicide, South Korean media reported. Jonghyun’s death was confirmed by his management company, SM Entertainment, which said: “We are sorry to share such heartbreaking and tragic news… SHINee’s Jonghyun left us suddenly.”. Police arrived at Jonghyun’s apartment after receiving an emergency call from his sister, according to South Korean media. The singer was taken to a nearby hospital and was later pronounced dead, police said. The Yonhap agency reported that Jonghyun’s sister had received a text message from her brother shortly before his death that read: “Please let me go. Tell me I did well. Final farewell.”