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Leading actress’s suicide shocks nation

Internet rumors took a major toll on Choi Jin-sil   PLAY AUDIO

Oct 03,2008
An ambulance carries away the body of actress Choi Jin-sil, who apparently committed suicide yesterday at her home in Jamwon-dong, southern Seoul. By Park Jong-keun
Choi Jin-sil, one of Korea’s best-loved actresses, was found dead at her home yesterday morning after an apparent suicide, police said.

The Seocho Police Precinct announced yesterday that the 40-year-old actress had hanged herself in the bathroom of her apartment in Jamwon-dong, Seocho District, southern Seoul.

Police were called to her home at 7:34 a.m. after Choi’s mother, identified only as Jung, found her with an elastic band around her neck tied to a shower head, officers said.

According to police, Choi died between 12:30 a.m. and 6 a.m.

“We confirmed her death at 7:38 a.m. Doctors told us she committed suicide. Also, there were no external wounds on her body, so we think she killed herself,” said Seocho police crime division director Yang Jae-ho in a press conference. “We don’t know yet whether or not to ask the national lab to perform an autopsy.”

Choi had reportedly been suffering extreme mental stress in recent weeks amid widespread rumors in cyberspace that linked her to Ahn Jae-hwan, 36, who also committed suicide and was found dead inside his Carnival van in early September.

The Internet-circulated rumors said that Choi had loaned the actor 2.5 billion won ($2 million). Ahn is believed to have killed himself, apparently under pressure after a series of failing businesses led to mounting debt.

Choi denied the rumors and officially asked police to probe their source on Sept. 25. Five days later, police arrested a 26-year-old female employee of a financial firm in Seoul on charges of spreading the groundless rumors.

“Choi’s mother stated that Choi has suffered from depression since she divorced former pro-baseball player Cho Sung-min, requiring her to take nervine [a sedative],” the officer said. “She also said the recent situation worsened her mental stress. Choi often said, ‘It is hard to live. I am so lonely,’ according to the statements of family members.”

The popular actress married the 35-year-old baseball star in 2000 when he was playing for the Japanese pro-baseball club Yomiuri Giants, but they divorced after their relationship deteriorated. They had two children, of whom Choi has sole custody.

Police said Choi returned to her home around midnight on Thursday after drinking three bottles of soju with her agent. Once home, she talked with her mother and her aunt about the stress she felt related to Ahn’s death.

Police also said that after the 30-minute conversation, Choi entered the bathroom, while other family members went to bed.

Four hours later, the mother, who was awakened from sleep, repeatedly knocked on the door of the bathroom but no one answered and the door was locked. She called a serviceman to open it, officers added.

No suicide note has been found, but police said Choi sent two text messages to her close friend and makeup artist, identified only as Lee, at around 12:45 a.m., saying, “If something comes up, please take care of my two children,” and, “I’m sorry.”

“We can’t release details at this time because the investigation is still under way,” Yang said. “Choi’s relatives are taking care of the two children. We don’t know whether or not the children know about the death of their mother.”

After Choi’s death, her 60-year-old mother cried bitterly and repeated, “Where is my daughter? My daughter?” in the mourning hall at Samsung Medical Center in Ilwon-dong in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. Her younger brother, Choi Jin-young, also a popular entertainer, shed tears without any comment. Her ex-husband Cho was also in shock.

Many colleagues, including comedian Lee Young-ja, pop singer Um Jung-hwa and supermodel Lee So-ra, attended services to express condolences and comfort the family.

The news of the popular star’s death also shocked the country.

Many expressed deep sorrow over the loss of the top actress, praying for her to rest in peace. More than 1 million netizens visited her home page, www.cyworld.com/choijinsil, and posted consolatory comments.

“I can’t believe she’s dead. I can’t believe it!” said office worker Shin Seung-woo, 34. “I have liked her acting for a long time. After I heard of her death, I couldn’t do anything. I am totally shocked.”

Lee Ji-won, 29, said, “When I heard about Choi’s death from my friend, I thought that she was lying, but it is true. I am so sad because I can’t see her on TV anymore.”

Choi was preparing for the second season of “The Last Scandal of My Life,” a TV drama where she played a woman who finds love with a top actor after a painful divorce. Choi made her debut in 1988 and quickly earned the nickname “The Nation’s Actress.” The previous day, Choi canceled a commercial taping, saying she was not in the mood.


By Park Sang-woo Staff Reporter [spark@joongang.co.kr]



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