Written by Tiffany May and Youmi Kim
Actor Song Yoo-jung, 26, was found dead on Saturday in Seoul, South Korea. This was the recent loss in the country’s entertainment industry of a young actor facing the psychological distress of his glamorous stars.
The death of Song Yoo-jung, who appeared in several television dramas, was confirmed in a statement issued by the Sublime Artist Agency, which it represented. The agency did not disclose the cause, but the suddenness of Song’s death was reminiscent of the streak of suicides that has plagued Korean pop music in recent years.
Pressure from South Korean management companies on young entertainers, many of whom are considered pop idols as teenagers, has long been alarmed. Their looks are scrutinized, and their tightly choreographed lives are often broadcast on social media platforms exposing them to both adulterous fan mail and hateful comments.
For many, their time in the spotlight is limited if they ever reach star status. By the end of 20, some are considered interchangeable.
A number of suicide K-pop stars have spoken of battling their sanity and the toll of cyberbullying. Song, an aspiring actor, hadn’t publicly mentioned such issues.
Song began her acting career at age 20, appearing in commercials for Estée Lauder skin care products and for the Baskin-Robbins ice cream chain. In her breakout role in 2019, Song played a fresh faced architecture student with a pixie cut in a web series called Dear My Name who was searching for her soulmate. She also starred in music videos.
She was an attorney for socialmediagossips with disabilities and served as an ambassador for a South Korean group called Warm Accompaniment.
Song’s agency called her “a great actress who performed with passion”. It didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The suicide problem in South Korea is not limited to the entertainment industry. The country has the highest suicide rate among the 37 industrialized nations that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
But celebrity suicides involving actors and others have been a staple of the South Korean news media for the past decade or more. In recent years, most of the attention has drawn to deaths in the K-pop industry, one of the country’s most successful cultural exports.
In 2017, a singer, Kim Jong-hyun, killed himself at the age of 27 after leaving a message that he had been overwhelmed by depression.
In 2019, Sulli, a 25-year-old K-pop star, took her own life after complaining about the relentless cyberbullying she faced when she joined a feminist campaign that advocated not wearing bras wear.
About six weeks later, her friend Goo Hara, 28, also killed herself and left a handwritten note of her despair.
Goo had tried to argue with online critics and asked them not to make malicious comments.
“Public entertainers like me don’t have it easy – we have taken a closer look at our private lives than anyone else and suffer from pain that we cannot even discuss with our family and friends,” she wrote.