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10 of the Most High-Profile Korean Celebrity Suicide Cases

What matters most in the world of entertainment is the impact it brings to the audience, and the power it holds to spread that impact.



On March 1, 2022, BMC Public Health published the suicide rate and social environment characteristics in South Korea. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that there are more than 700,000 people who die due to suicide every year. South Korea has had the highest suicide rate from 2003 to 2019 and suicide has been reported to be the fifth leading cause of death in Korea.

In this article, I'd like to share 10 of the most high-profile suicide cases by Korean celebrities:

1. Lee Eun Joo (1980 - 2005)


At 24, actress Lee Eun Joo committed suicide. She has been active as an actress since 1997 and starred in hit films such as Taegukgi and The Scarlet Letter. She was a rising star at that time and people didn't know she had been battling with depression. On the night of February 22, 2005, she was found dead in her apartment in Bundang, Seongnam. She had slit her wrists and hanged herself just a few days after her graduation from Dankook University.

According to her family, Lee Eun Joo suffered from mental illness after her role in The Scarlet Letter due to nudity. But there was also a speculation that Bungee Jumping of Their Own, one of the most attended films of 2001, could've started it all because she was too invested in her characters.

Lee Eun Joo left a suicide note scrawled in blood saying, "Mom, I am sorry and I love you" and on a separate note she said, "I wanted to do too much. Even though I live, I'm not really alive. I don't want anyone to be disappointed. It's nice having money...I wanted to make money."

2. Lee Hye Ryeon (1981 - 2007)


Born to an unwed mother and with her father's death, Lee Hye Ryeon aka Heo Yun aka U;Nee had a difficult childhood. She had been active in the showbiz industry since 1996 as an actress, singer, rapper, model, and dancer. At the age of 25, U;Nee was found dead on January 21, 2007 at her home in Seo-gu, Incheon. She hanged herself. U;Nee had been suffering from depression due to the attacks and rumours of plastic surgery from netizens. On a website, she wrote, "I feel everything is empty. I am again walking down a path to reach a destination that I don't know." Five days after her death, her management company still released her third album as planned.

3. Jeong Da Bin (1980 - 2007)


Jeong Da Bin was an actress and dancer and has been active in the entertainment industry since 2000. Her most notable work was Cats on the Roof. On February 10, 2007, her boyfriend Lee found her hanging with a bath towel in the bathroom of his house in Samseong-dong, Gangnam District. She was drunk after socializing with her friends, so he took her to his house, but found her dead in the morning. According to her boyfriend, she was depressed due to lack of work, malicious attacks on the internet regarding her physical appearance, and her previous manager's imprisonment. Lee also said that she had attempted suicide the previous year by slitting her wrist although her talent agency disputed his statement, claiming that the scar on her wrist was the result of an accident that occurred when she was in high school. There has been a suspected foul play, so her family and agency requested an investigation. However, the postmortem concluded that it was suicide. A day before the unfortunate incident, Jeong wrote on her personal blog on Cyworld with the title, "The End." Her death sparked concern over copycat suicides since she committed the suicide a month after U;Nee's death.

4. Choi Jin Sil (1968 - 2008)


Choi Jin Sil was considered "The Nation's Actress" for being one of the best actresses in South Korea by playing lead roles in 18 films and 20 K-Dramas. Choi Jin Sil has been active in the film industry since 1988 and has won the 33rd Grand Bell Award for Best Actress. On October 2, 2008, she was found hanging at her home in Seoul.

Choi suffered severe stress due to rumours that she was involved in the suicide of fellow actor, Ahn Jae-Hwan who was found dead in his car on September 8, 2008. He apparently committed suicide due to his debts and this sparked a rumour that Choi was a loan shark who had lent him a large sum of money. Shaken by the malicious rumours in the internet, Choi took her own life. No suicide note was found, but she sent her makeup assistant messages via phone saying, "take care of my children no matter what happens" and "I'm sorry."

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5. Kim Daul (1989 - 2009)


Kim Daul was an international model, painter, and regular blogger. At the age of 20, she committed suicide by hanging herself in her 10th arrondissement apartment in Paris on November 19, 2009. She has suffered from insomnia and depression due to the high demands of the fashion industry for a long period of time. In her weblog, she expressed herself through paintings and shared her personal thoughts. Even in April of 2007, she had already written about angst, self-mutilation, and suicide. She posted, "I am going to smash my face. My life as Daul was so miserable and lonely. Please join my loneliness in another world. I love you all, Daul." Then, she later on retracted this information saying that she was just kidding and that she was fine and just tired.

During the New York Fashion week on October, 2009, she posted on her blog describing herself as "mad depressed and overworked." Before she took her own life, her last post was titled, "Say Hi to Forever" with the song, "I Go Deep" by Jim Rivers. Shortly after, she became the ninth South Korean celebrity who committed suicide in 2009.

6. Jang Ja Yeon (1980 - 2009)


Jang Ja-yeon was an actress. Her most popular work was the K-Drama series, Boys Over Flowers where she played the role of Sunny, one of the antagonists in the series. Before her death on March 7, 2009 where she hanged herself, she had been starring in Boys Over Flowers and had been suffering from depression. She was just 29. Her death caused a national scandal in 2009 and was reopened in 2018 when the media circulated information about her being sexually and physically abused by over 30 prominent entertainment executives during her career, including the CEO of Jang's former talent agency, Kim Sung-hoon of The Contents Entertainment. On March 17th, 2019, Koreaboo published an article about Dispatch's release of Jang Ja Yeon's suicide letter. Jang Ja Yeon outlined everything that had happened to her and it's become known as her suicide note. Kim was found guilty of abuse after three witnesses testified against him.

7. Kim Jonghyun (1990 - 2017)


Kim Jonghyun was a singer-songwriter, radio host, and author. He was the main vocalist of the South Korean boy band named Shinee for nine years with twelve albums both in Korean and Japanese. At the age of 27, he took his own life through carbon monoxide poisoning. He was found dead on December 18, 2017 in his rented apartment in Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam District. Prior to his suicide, his older sister already suspected that he was planning to commit suicide, so she called for help. Her suspicion came from his messages in KakaoTalk with words such as "last goodbye" and "say I did well." He was found unconscious by the police and rescue workers in the apartment and was instantly brought to Konkuk University Hospital while he was in a state of cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, he passed away.

8. Jeon Tae Soo (1984 - 2018)


Jeon Tae Soo was an actor. He was best known for his role in the K-Drama series, Sungkyunkwan Scandal. He was Ha Ji-won's (famous Korean actress) younger brother. He took time off his career to get treated for depression, but ended up taking his own life on January 21, 2018, at age 33.

9. Jeon Mi Seon (1979 - 2019)


Jeon Mi Seon was an actress best known for her supporting roles in K-Dramas such as Memories of Murder (2003), Moon Embracing the Sun (2012), and Hide and Seek (2013). She also played the main role in Love Is a Crazy Thing (2005). On June 29, 2019, she was found dead by hanging, at a hotel in Jeonju. The police concluded that it was likely a suicide case. She died at the age of 48.

10. Choi Jin-ri aka Sulli (1994 – 2019)


Choi Jin-ri aka Sulli was a singer and actress. She was a former member of the girl group, f(x) which debuted in 2009, but before that she had already been casted on supporting and guest roles on several television shows.

On October 14, 2019, she was found dead at her house in Seongnam, South Seoul after hanging herself. Sulli was seen shooting for an ad film a day before passing and there was no hint of her being depressed or suicidal, but it was suspected that Sulli's death was caused by cyberbullying. IU, her closest friend, wrote the song "Peach" about Sulli and fans speculated that IU's collaboration with BTS Suga on the song "Eight" was also a song dedicated to Sulli.

© 2022 Shey Saints

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