Fans have reacted with anguish and disbelief over the sudden death of K-pop star Moonbin at the age of 25.
The Astro boy band member was found unresponsive by his manager at his Seoul apartment on Wednesday night.
His death renews concerns over the immense stress K-pop stars face and brings to mind other high-profile music deaths in recent years.
Police said it appeared he had taken his own life but an autopsy would determine the exact cause of death.
Moonbin “unexpectedly left our world and became a star in the sky”, his music label Fantiago said on Twitter.
Pictures online showed fans laying flowers and notes at street memorials in South Korea and elsewhere in the world, including in the US, Chile, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Some also strung up purple and silver balloons – colours that had featured prominently at the singer’s last performance in Thailand.
His death prompted an outpouring of grief on social media throughout Thursday.
“Rest in peace, Moonbin. I hope the stars and the moon treat you well. I hope they give you all the comfort and love,” one person wrote on Twitter.
“Moonbin, your smile will light up the night,” another wrote.
With a career that spanned his entire life, Moonbin was in a rare group of K-pop stars. He entered showbiz as a child actor and model in the 2000s. He had his acting debut in 2009, when as an 11-year-old he starred in the popular Korean drama series Boys Over Flowers.
At age 18, he joined Astro.
While his international fame was not on the level of BTS or Blackpink, he’s wildly popular at home, Rob Schwartz, an Asia correspondent for Billboard Magazine, told the BBC.
He added that K-pop idols are under intense pressure from fans on social media to look and sound perfect, while record producers demand they churn out hit after hit.
“It’s crazy how they have these guys under a microscope,” he said. “Certainly, stars in the West can more or less keep who they’re dating a secret. In the K-pop world, it’s impossible to keep a secret. Every time they lift a foot, thousands of lines are written about it.”
He also noted that Moonbin went on hiatus in 2019 and 2020, citing his health. “K-pop artists don’t really have a life outside being a pop star. They start training at a very young age. They don’t go to school or make regular friends. It’s really hard for them to see life outside the K-pop world,” he said.