The lead singer of top South Korean boy band SHINee died in hospital on Monday, leaving fans of the globally-famous K-pop genre devastated at the loss of one of its biggest stars.
Kim Jong-hyun, 27, was found unconscious inside a serviced residence in the South Korean capital Seoul, a police official told Reuters.
“His sister was first to call the police assuming that he might commit suicide,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive subject.
Kim spent nearly a decade in his leading role as one of five members of SHINee, one of the most popular boy bands in the country, as well as a solo artist.
The band, renowned for their dance routines and experimental sound, have produced huge hits including Sherlock, Lucifer, Ring Ding Dong and Everybody, racking up hundreds of millions views on YouTube.
The singer’s passing was mourned by the massive worldwide fan base that Korea’s K-pop music has attracted in recent years. Some fans criticised the notoriously high-pressure demands the industry places on its stars in terms of punishing schedules and tightly managed public personas.
K-pop, immensely popular in Asia, has made major inroads in the West, with a song by the group BTS currently maintaining a spot on the Billboard 200 for seven weeks as of the end of November.
Its international appeal is such that South Korean President Moon Jae-in used K-pop celebrities at events, including a state dinner, in China last week in a bid to smooth out a year of difficult diplomacy with a star-laden charm offensive.
Another member of SHINee, Choi Min-ho, was brought in to make an appearance with US first lady Melania Trump during a state visit to Seoul in early November, only to steal the spotlight from her when a loyal fan’s enthusiasm went viral in a video of the event.
SHINee, who had recorded six albums and appeared in numerous films and reality TV shows, were in the midst of a world tour for their latest album released in February, with their most recent concert just over a week ago.