Kim Jong-hyun, the lead singer of the hugely popular and influential South Korean boy band Shinee, has died at the age of 27.
The star, better known as Jonghyun, was found unconscious at his home in Seoul on Monday evening in an an apparent suicide, South Korean media reported.
Shinee were formed in 2008 by the South Korean company SM Entertainment, and belong to the genre known as K-pop – a highly visual form of Korean pop that incorporates elements of western music. They went on to achieve great success in their home country, selling hundreds of thousands of albums and singles.
In 2011, they broke the Japanese market and went on to become one of the most successful South Korean acts in the country: the Japanese-language version of their single Replay sold more than 100,000 copies there.
News of Kim’s death prompted a flurry of messages on social media, with many fans voicing disbelief.
A Twitter account devoted to K-pop photos said: “Sending our deepest condolences to SHINee Jonghyun and those who known him well. If you’re going through a hard time, please do know that you never walk alone. Talk to someone and take care of yourself.”
Another Twitter user wrote: “Today we lost one of the most talented artists in Korea. I’m heartbroken and devastated by the news.”
Police arrived at Kim’s apartment after receiving an emergency call from his sister, according to South Korean media. The singer was taken to a nearby hospital and was later pronounced dead, police said.
The Yonhap agency reported that Kim’s sister had received a text message from her brother shortly before his death that read: “Please let me go. Tell me I did well. Final farewell.”
The five-member boy band, with Kim as their main vocalist, released their debut album, The Shinee World, in 2008. They have since released five more Korean albums and another five aimed at the Japanese market – the most recent in January this year. All of their Korean albums except their debut have topped the charts in their home country.
Shinee are considered among the best live performers in K-pop and have won multiple awards for their complex dance routines. They have also become known for setting trends in South Korea – including popularising skinny jeans. The group are frequently referred to by the moniker “the princes of K-pop”.
Kim also had a successful career as a solo singer-songwriter. He released three records: an album called She Is in 2016, which topped the Korean charts, and two compilations in 2015 and 2017. In 2015, he released a book called Skeleton Flower, which detailed the stories behind his songs. In 2010, along with other major Korean artists, he contributed vocals to Let’s Go, a campaign song for the G20 summit, which was held in Seoul.
Throughout his career he collaborated with numerous other Korean artists and also hosted his own radio show on the Korean station MBC.
Kim last appeared in public at a solo concert in Seoul this month.