Japan man probed over insults tied to Terrace House star Hana Kimura's suicide

Hana Kimura appeared on the popular Japanese television series Terrace House. PHOTO: HANADAYO0903/INSTAGRAM

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese police said on Thursday (Dec 17) they have referred a man to prosecutors over online abuse he directed at Hana Kimura, a reality television star who took her own life earlier this year.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police referred the suspect in his 20s to prosecutors for further investigation after the May death of Ms Kimura, a cast member on Netflix's internationally popular Terrace House.

The man has not been arrested and his identity will not be disclosed until prosecutors decide whether to indict him on charges of public insult, a police spokesman told AFP.

"The suspect... in May posted messages on a social media account of the victim, including 'You have such an awful personality. Is your life worth living?' and 'Hey, hey. When will you die?'" the spokesman said.

He "posted these insults for many random individuals to view and therefore he publicly insulted" Ms Kimura, the spokesman added.

Ms Kimura, 22, a confident pink-haired professional wrestler, was a fan favourite on Terrace House, in which six young people share a home while looking for love.

But she was targeted by a torrent of abuse online, reportedly including comments such as "everyone will be happy if you're gone".

The television show was cancelled after Ms Kimura's death, which also prompted Japanese ministers and lawmakers to do more to tackle cyber bullying.

Ms Kimura's suicide made international headlines and brought renewed social attention to the problem of cyber bullying in Japan and other countries.

In South Korea, for example, the deaths of K-pop stars have prompted calls for strong punishment for abusive online comments.

And a huge online campaign against cyber bullying, using the hashtag #BeKind, took off after the suicide in February of Caroline Flack, who hosted British reality show Love Island.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.