As some of you may already know, early this month, top Korean actress Choi Jin-sil (above) committed suicide by hanging herself at her home in Seoul. She was 39. It was reported that she had suffered from depression since her 2002 separation, and messy divorce two years later, from her pro baseball player husband and was upset by recent rumors (she claimed were false) that she had loaned a large sum of money to an actor friend and was pressuring him to pay it back, which was a reason he committed suicide in early September. I suppose the alcohol she had to drink that evening also helped with her decision to take her own life.
In January 2007, popular singer U;Nee [sic] committed suicide by hanging herself at her home in Incheon. She had been receiving a rash of harsh comments by netizens about her overtly sexy image, which was believed to be a factor in her decision to end her own life. She had also been taking medication for depression and had just completed her third album Habit, at the time of her death. Her management company went ahead and released it as scheduled. She was 25.
Also worthy of mention here is the suicide of Samsung heiress Lee Yoon-hyung (right), who hanged herself in her New York City apartment in November, 2005 at the age of 26. Not a celeb, but a high-profile name, nonetheless, her death was originally reported in the Korean news media as the result of a car accident. However, investigation by reporters soon revealed that there was no car accident but rather she had hanged herself in her East Village apartment, where her boyfriend found her body. At the time of her death, she had apparently been living a life of leisure. In 2003, she was reported to have held $191 million in shares of her father's company. Read more details on this one here.
South Korea's suicide rate is the one of the highest among developed countries and it seems that celebrity suicides there have become more common in recent years, with four occurring in just the last two years. Reasons given for this Korean "cultural phenomenon" have ranged all the way from the nation’s rapid economic growth changing the way Koreans regard life, to trauma caused by Internet rumors and written attacks.
My sympathies for the above ladies is limited (especially for Choi Jin-sil, who left her two young children to grow up without a mother) because they were more concerned about escaping their own pain than they were about the pain their deaths would cause their loved ones. As popular and successful as these women were, and showing no tell-tale signs to those close to them, it must now make one wonder if their favorite Korean entertainer could be next.
Edit: The following are Korean female celebrities who have comitted suicide since this article was published. Click on their names for details. All hanged themselves unless otherwise noted:
- 3/7/2009 - Actress Jang Ja-yeon, 29
- 4/27/2009 - Actress Woo Seung-yeon, 25
- 11/19/2009 - Model Daul Kim, 20
- 10/23/2010 - Singer Lee Hye-rin, 25
- 11/12/2010 - Actress Park Hye-sang, 29
- 4/19/2011 - Model Kim Yuri, 21*
- 5/23/2011 - Anchorwoman Song Ji-sun, 29**
- 8/25/2011 - Actress Han Chae-won, 26 according to some sources, 31 according to others
- 6/12/2012 - Actress Jung Ayul, 25
**Jumped from her 19th floor apartment window