Grieving mourners from both South Korea and Japan bid farewell Friday to a popular South Korean actor and singer who committed suicide earlier this week.
A funeral ceremony was scheduled for Park Yong-ha, 33, who killed himself Wednesday in distress over career and family pressures, the latest in a string of high-profile suicides in the Asian country.
Park’s suicide stunned South Korea and neighboring Japan where he was one of the most popular South Korean celebrities. One of his fans was said to be Japan’s former first lady, Akie Abe.
About 100 wailing fans — mostly Japanese women in black mourning attire — stood outside a hospital and surrounded the hearse carrying Park’s coffin to a cremation site, briefly preventing it from departing. One tearful fan held up a T-shirt expressing love for the late actor. Another reached out to touch the vehicle.
Police have said Park had been under stress because he had to juggle management of his entertainment company and career while his father was fighting stomach cancer. The actor had been taking sleeping pills due to insomnia, police said, citing Park’s mother.
Park debuted in the late 1990s and starred in the 2002 television drama series “Winter Sonata,” which was also watched by fans in Japan and Southeast Asia. He held several concerts in Japan and released eight CDs there.
He was supposed to hold 12 concerts across Japan from July 2 to Aug. 22 and the tickets were sold out, according to Japanese record company Pony Canyon Inc.
South Korea has the highest suicide rate among the 30 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Choi Jin-sil, one of South Korea’s most famous actresses, committed suicide two years ago. In March, her younger brother, Choi Jin-young, also an actor, killed himself in Seoul.
Former President Roh Moo-hyun jumped to his death in May last year while embroiled in a widening corruption scandal.