Police look for coercion in reality show tragedy

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Police look for coercion in reality show tragedy

Authorities investigating Wednesday’s suicide by a female contestant on a matchmaking reality show, said they are looking into whether the woman was forced into filming scenes against her will.

The 29-year-old woman, identified only as Jeon, hanged herself from a shower head in a bathroom using the cord of a hair dryer. She was reportedly found by a member of the crew of the show, which is being broadcast on SBS.

The police are now looking at video footage and the woman’s online messages to see if there is evidence she was coerced by the production staff into shooting scenes.

The amount of footage featuring Jeon is expected to add up to about 200 hours, and SBS told the police it would take a long time to submit it all.

Investigators are also examining text messages Jeon sent to her family and friends, who earlier said that they received phone messages from her complaining of being forced to film certain scenes.

“I didn’t want to go, but a writer [of the program] called me again today and persuaded me,” read one message sent to a friend of hers.

“She didn’t want to participate in the program in the first place, but the writers forced her to go on,” Jeon’s mother said. “She did not want to be exposed [to the public].”

Reportedly, her role in the reality show was not going so well either. Jeon’s friend said producers wanted to make her a tragic figure, a woman who was not chosen by the man she liked.

The staff even played her a video clip of the man she liked going out with another female contestant. Jeon complained to her friend in a message saying, “I was so upset to see the video clip and the camera shooting me,” adding that the contestants thought she was being made to look like a victim.

Jeon’s family has delayed her funeral to wait for the investigation.

“I have no idea why [the producers] were following her when she didn’t want to be followed,” said Jeon’s mother. “It doesn’t make sense that nobody noticed how she was doing when the cameras were rolling 24 hours a day. Her father was so shocked that he had to see a doctor. She told me that she was going to ask the producers and writers to make it look better, but that was the last call I got from her.”

“We have not yet found any signs that Jeon was coerced in the filming,” said police officer Gang Gyeong-nam of the Seogwipo Police Precinct. “The targets and range of investigation will be determined after conducting examinations of her cell phone and video footage.”

BY CHOI KYUNG-HO, CHOI CHUNG-IL AND MIN KYUNG-WON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]


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