Beloved Actress Choi Jin Shil Found Dead in Apparent Suicide

From the Associated Press
8:12 AM PDT, October 2, 2008

SEOUL, South Korea — A movie star whose enduring popularity earned her the
nickname "The Nation’s Actress" was found dead today — apparently
taking her own life a month after the suicide of a fellow actor she was
rumored to have pressured about a loan, police said.

Choi Jin-sil, 39, had been depressed following her divorce in 2004 and
worried about how to care for her two children, friends told the
police. Recent rumors linking her to the actor’s death — allegations
she strenuously denied — also left her distraught, family members said.

She is believed to have hanged herself in the bathroom of her Seoul
home, said Yang Jae-ho, chief investigator at Seocho Police Station.

"Given the results of an examination showing no trace of physical
trauma on her body, we concluded that it was a suicide," Yang told
reporters. He said a formal autopsy and an investigation were under way.

No suicide note was found but Choi sent an assistant two cell phone
text messages Wednesday night asking her to "take care of my children
no matter what happens" and telling her that "I’m sorry," the
investigator said.

Choi’s mother told police that the actress returned home drunk around
midnight Wednesday, crying and denying the recent rumors, before going
into the bathroom, Yang said. Choi was found dead the next morning.

The news shocked her fans as well as stars and film directors attending
the Pusan International Film Festival, which opened Thursday in the
southern beach town of Busan. A moment of silence was observed in
Choi’s honor at the opening ceremony.

Choi was one of South Korea’s most famous actresses. She made her debut
in the late 1980s, quickly becoming the nation’s sweetheart and earned
a reputation as a box-office draw as the star of films including "My
Love, My Bride," "How to Top My Wife" and "The Letter." She also was
featured in prime time TV dramas, including "Jealousy," "My Rosy Life"
and last year’s "Bad Woman, Good Woman."

The actress was preparing for the second season of the TV drama "The
Last Scandal of My Life," in which she played a woman who finds love
with a top actor after a painful divorce.

Choi herself had gone through a difficult divorce. She had married
baseball star Cho Sung-min in 2000, then a pitcher for the Japanese pro
baseball team Yomiuri Giants, but they split in 2002 and divorced two
years later.

The deterioration of their relationship became tabloid fodder,
culminating in Cho’s arrest for physically attacking her. They had two
children younger than 7.

A friend said Choi worried constantly about raising the children and
about her future as an actress, and repeatedly expressed her wish to
die, Yang said.

Her mother also told investigators Choi was depressed after the divorce and had been taking a sedative, Yang said.

Rumors that she had lent money to actor and longtime friend Ahn
Jae-hwan, who was found dead in his car in early September, upset the
actress, friends and family said.

Choi denied loaning Ahn money and asked police to find out who was
circulating the claims that Ahn killed himself after Choi pressured him
to repay a large debt.

A securities firm employee and another suspect are under investigation for defamation in that case, Yang said.

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