K-pop star Jonghyun has died in what police have said was an apparent suicide, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported on Monday (Dec 18).
The 27-year-old lead singer of popular boy band SHINee was found at 6.10pm local time in a rented apartment studio in Cheongdam-dong in southern Seoul, according to the report.
Cheongdam-dong is an upmarket and trendy neighbourhood in Gangnam, and often attracts hordes of K-pop and K-drama fans eager to spot celebrities in the area.
SM Entertainment confirmed Jonghyun's passing in a statement on Monday. The company also called on the public to "refrain from reporting on rumours and guesswork so the family of the deceased can honour him in peace".
The company added that Jonghyun's funeral will be "held quietly" with his relatives and company colleagues.
News channel YTN reported that the singer had checked into a serviced residence for two nights and was found unconscious by police.
His sister made the initial call to emergency responders at 4.42pm saying that she believed her brother was committing suicide, Yonhap added.
A police briefing said that he sent a text message to his sister that read like a suicide note. "I've had a hard time. Please let me go and say that I did a good job. This is my last word," it read, according to the police.
The singer, whose full name is Kim Jong-hyun, was reportedly lying in a room with a coal briquette burning on a frying pan, a common method of suicide in South Korea. Coal briquettes release carbon monoxide.
He was moved to a nearby hospital but later died, police were quoted as saying. Investigators are looking into the circumstances of his death.
A person who worked closely with Kim expressed shock at the news, Yonhap news agency said.
"I haven't checked it but I heard that he recently signed a car purchase deal. I wasn't aware he was going through tough times, since he's been his regular self," the person said.
SHINee, a five member boy band, was formed in 2008 by the SM Entertainment management group. It became known as one of the most skillful both in terms of vocals and dance, was hugely popular and influenced the music and fashion scenes.
The band last performed at a concert in Singapore in November.
Jonghyun also launched a successful career as a solo singer-songwriter. His last public appearance was at his solo concert on Dec 9 and 10.
The singer had also pre-taped a segment for a variety show which was scheduled to air on Christmas Eve, Yonhap said.
The group recorded six albums for the Korean market and five for Japanese fans. Five, its fifth Japanese album, was released in February this year. It embarked on the SHINee World Tour to promote it, playing to 320,000 fans at 25 concerts in 10 cities.
The group appeared in two films I AM, from 2012 and 2015 documentary SMTown: The Stage, as well as numerous reality TV shows. The band had been named as honorary ambassadors of Gangnam in 2013.
Jonghyun's death sent shockwaves through K-pop fans with social media flooded with messages of mourning.
Photos posted on social media showed throngs of fans standing in front of the Seoul hospital where his body lies.
"SHINee was one of the very first K-pop groups I ever became a fan of and it hurts to think that this is real. Rest in peace," said on fan on Twitter.
"No words can describe how heartbroken I am ... Rest in peace, Jonghyun," another tweeted.