The late actress Choi Jin-sil
By Park Si-soo
Actress Choi Jin-sil was found dead in her home in Seoul in an apparent suicide, police said Thursday, amid rumors linking her demise to the death of an actor last month.
The 40-year-old Choi has been a national heartthrob for the past two decades appearing in numerous box-office hit films, dramas, and commercials.
According to Seocho Police Station, Choi's mother found the actress hanging by an elastic bandage in a shower stall at her home at 6:15 a.m. and reported it to them at 7:34 a.m.
An investigation is under way into the exact cause of her death, but currently police are leaning toward suicide since Choi sent a text message to her makeup manager hinting that she would kill herself. In the message, she said ``My dear, I hope you take care of my children if something happens to me.''
An autopsy was conducted at Kangnam St. Mary's Hospital that night, with results due within days.
``Taking the evidence and testimony into consideration, we believe she apparently committed suicide,'' Yang Jae-ho, a chief investigator said. ``We will continue to look into the case to clarify the cause and other details.''
Investigators said Choi drank with her manager last night and returned home at around midnight. Crying before her mother, she said ``I am disappointed in people who allege I pulled strings behind the death of (actor) Ahn Jae-hwan. I had nothing to do with his suicide.'' Then, she entered the bathroom and locked the door.
Waking up at around 4 a.m., her mother entered her room and learned Choi was still in the bathroom. As there was no reaction to her knock, she called a maintenance man to open the door at 6 a.m.
Ahn, the husband of popular comedian Jung Sun-hee, was found dead inside his car in early September also in an apparent suicide using toxic fumes generated by burning charred briquettes.
Rumors have since circulated on the Internet that Choi had lent billions of won to Ahn, who was reportedly shouldering huge debts due to his faltering business. Rumors also said Choi pressured and even threatened Ahn to get her money back.
Choi had asked police to investigate the origins of what she called groundless stories, and a securities company official was arrested this week on suspicion of spreading the rumor that Choi lent 2.5 billion won ($2.5 million) to the late actor.
On Wednesday, the actress went to a studio to shoot a commercial, but this was canceled halfway through due to her poor health. Choi's partner at the shoot, Sohn Hyun-joo, said she looked very weary. ``Her face looked really bad and she found it difficult to continue and had to stop after two hours,'' Sohn said.
Born in Seoul on December 24, 1968, the all-smiling Choi jumped to stardom in the 1990s after appearing in a TV commercial for a Samsung video tape recorder.
Despite her professional success, her personal life was tough. Her manager Bae Byung-soo was killed by Choi's driver in 1994, and Choi was called to testify in the case. In 2000, Choi married Cho Sung-min, then a popular baseball player, but this ended in an ugly divorce in 2004. She is survived by her two children.