The death of South Korean actor-singer Cha In-ha has raised concerns that the country is witnessing the copycat-suicide phenomenon known as the “Werther effect”.
Named after the protagonist of the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, it refers to the phenomenon of people taking their own lives following widely publicised suicides.
Cha’s death on Tuesday followed the suspected suicides of Sulli, a former member of K-pop girl group f (x), on October 14, and of her friend and fellow singer Goo Hara, on November 24.
Cha was appearing in the MBC prime time television drama Love with Flaws as the second brother of the main character Joo Seo-yeon (played by Oh Yeon-seo).
“We are very sorry to tell you that Cha In-ha left this world on December 3. It is heartbreaking to deliver this news to all the people who have shown him love and support,” said Fantagio, his management company. It also requested the media to refrain from reporting anything based on assumptions or rumours.
Fans were shocked by the sudden death of Cha, as he had been active in communicating with his fans. He left a photo on Instagram with the caption, “Try not to catch a cold”, a day before his death.
“Although young people’s deaths grab the attention of the media, actual government support to prevent such tragedies is minimal,” says Hong Hyun-joo, a professor at Hallym University.
“The government does not have a sustainable solution to young people’s suicides because they are only focused on those among the elderly. There should be a reallocation of the government budget to come up with sustainable prevention of more youth deaths.”
Cha made his debut in the short film You, Deep Inside of Me in 2017, and was a member of the K-pop act Surprise U, which was formed by Fantagio. He built his acting career through SBS drama Temperature of Love, Clean With Passion for Now and The Banker.
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.