By Diana Lee
July 18, 2010
Like his role in Winter Sonata where Sang Hyak fell victim to unrequited love for Yu Jin, Park Yong-ha, who would have turned 33 on August 12, fell victim to the dark side of success.
On June 30, 2010, Park Yong-ha hanged himself from the cord of his camcorder charger, according to the police report. Park returned home late after drinking with friends and then spoke with his father who is suffering from terminal stomach cancer. Park is said to have been crying when he left this father that fated night.
Park’s body was temporarily placed at Kang Nam Virgin Mary Hospital where his friends and colleagues (including Winter Sonata’s costars, Bae Yong Joon and Choi Ji Woo) – shocked and many in tears – paid their respect to the late actor and singer. The funeral was held on July 2, 2010 in Seoul with actor So Ji Sub holding Park's funeral portrait while leading the procession, followed by the bereaved family members and celebrity friends. Park was cremated and his ashes were scattered in Bundang Memorial Park, Gyeonggi Province.
The sudden death of one of South Korea’s top young stars has stunned millions of fans across Asia. Park Yong-ha is famous, especially in Japan where he had enjoyed huge success as a singer since 2003. His death made headline news in the Japanese media. Around 200 Japanese diehard fans immediately flew to Seoul to attend his funeral. Consoling his Japanese fans, Tower Records in Tokyo set up memorial corners in their numerous stores for Park Yong-ha. A planned commemoration service for Park Yong-ha is to be held at Tokyo International Forum on July 18 with fans and close friends in attendance.
Park also had a large following in Singapore where he became the first Hallyu (Korean Wave) star to promote his debut album. He gave a dynamic performance to an audience of 20,000 at the Padang in 2003. It appears that many fans, not only in Singapore and Taiwan but also everywhere else in the world have expressed their shock and grief on the Internet blogs and forums.
Born in 1977, Park Yong Ha was the second of three children in his family and graduated from Chungang University with a Theater and Film Major degree. His father, Park Seung-in, was a well-known music producer in the 1970s and 80s and a manager for several popular Korean singers – Song Chang-sik, Yang Hee-eun, and Jung Su-ra. Obviously, Park Seung-in’s showbiz background had a profound influence on his son. In an interview with the Korea Herald in 2008, Park Yong-ha said that he wanted to “be someone who can cover a lot of territory.” And that’s exactly what the talented celebrity had tried to do.
Park began his impressive acting career with Theme Game (1994) followed by a string of TV dramas. It was not until 2002 appearing along with Bae Yong-joon and Choi Ji-woo when he gained international fame as a Hallyu star through the mega-hit drama series, Winter Sonata. And all the rest of success that follows is history.
His popularity grew through his performances in TV dramas Loving You (2002), On Air (2008) and The Slingshot (2009). Although cast in few films, he was known for his roles in If it Snows on Christmas (1998), Although It is Hateful Again (2002), and The Scam (2009).
He won his first award - MBC 1998 Best New Actor Award in See and See Again - that secured his position in the acting industry. After winning KBS Excellence in Acting Award in 2002 for Winter Sonata, Park was highly honored with many awards in 2008, including SBS Best Drama Actor for On Air and Top 10 Stars.
His immense popularity in acting kicked off Park’s music ambition in 2003. Like the First Day, the theme song of the TV drama hit All In, was Park’s first released single in 2003. Not surprisingly, his natural musical talent won Japan over with 5 hit albums and singles. Park was heaped with accolades from “Best Single of the Year (Foreign)” to four consecutive Japan Gold Disc Awards - a first for a Korean pop artist. He’d launched singing tours throughout Japan since 2005, solidifying his popularity as one of the most sought after Korean stars in Japan.
Park released his fifth album in Japan last month and was in the middle of his 14-city sold-out concert tour in Japan. He was also cast to play the lead for a Korean drama adaptation of the Chinese movie, Comrades, Almost a Love Story, which was set to begin shooting in July. His acting and singing careers couldn’t have been any better.
Park established Yona Entertainment with his father as the company’s president in 2008. He was appointed as good will ambassador of NGO Good Neighbors in August 2009. As a humanitarian, he visited Republic of Chad several times to donate money for constructing a school under the company’s name: Yona School. In late 2009, he parted ways with his manager to run his own business.
Hiding his misery behind a smile, he was under a lot of strain in handling his business affairs and in caring for his terminally ill father. It’s been rumored that he faced financial business difficulties due to a huge loss in loans. He became more depressed when he found out that his father had terminal cancer. A few days before his death, Park told friends that his work and life were "too difficult" and that he was taking sleeping pills for insomnia for many years.
Success has two sides - the bright side with fame and fortune and the dark side with stress and high expectations in performance. In the public eye, the singer-and-actor’s future appeared bright and promising. In private, Park had to deal with depression, financial crisis, and emotional distress. Unfortunately, Park suffered quietly as he dealt with the dark side of success. And he sadly succumbed to the dark forces of success by ending his life.
For Park Yong-ha who has left a legacy and touched millions of lives with his acting and singing, we want to remember him with the lyrics from Winter Sonata song – My Memory:
I remember everything
I can see even a little thing
When I close my eyes
You are far away
Somewhere that I can’t reach
I didn’t say I love you or I will wait for you
I really didn’t imagine
Meeting you again
I still love you
I confess to you now
I wanna love you forever
If it’s not late forever with me