By Kim Da-ye
Police began an investigation Thursday into the apparent suicide of a woman who appeared on SBS TV's popular blind-date reality show "Jjak." A spokesman said the probe will focus on establishing what might have driven her to commit suicide.
The woman's parents, the show's production crew and other cast members have all been questioned. Additionally, officers will check calls and text messages she exchanged as well as examine the episodes of the show she appeared in. When her parents were summoned by the police, the mother told the media, "There have been a lot of stories on the Internet. I am going to give details soon."
Some netizens are calling for the program to be cancelled, claiming the format puts immense pressure on the cast.
The debate intensified as information from the police investigation, interviews with her family and friends, and even personal messages on an instant messenger went viral on the Internet and social networking services.
Opinion is divided over whether the reality show should be cancelled because of the incident. Those against the program say contestants are not ordinary people ― the men tend to be rich, have good jobs or have graduated from prestigious schools, while all the women are pretty ― they argue.
There is a campaign on portal site Daum to shut down the program, but it had fewer than 90 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
"The whole nation is addicted to voyeurism. One man behaves according to his image while a woman looks lustful. Do you think a normal TV program would involve this group-badmouthing?" the campaign said.
Cause of death
Some assume that it was purely personal problems that led to her suicide at the filming location on Jeju Island, while some argue that the way the reality show is organized and filmed is responsible.
The information that supports the former is a suicide note believed to have been left by the cast member identified by her surname, Jeon.
In a notebook obtained by police and quoted by local media, the woman wrote, "I want to end my life here. I am sorry. At the Love Village, the filming crew cared for me a lot. I thank them. But it's too difficult now. Regardless of whether I meet a partner here or not, I have no will to live."
In the meantime, her family and friends indicated that Jeon came under a lot of stress during the shoot.
Police learned that she was in a good mood during the early stages of the filming which began Feb. 27. The filming was going to end Wednesday. Jeon is believed to have hanged herself in the early hours of that day.
Five women and seven men appearing on the show are said to have had a light drinking session around midnight. Jeon left earlier, saying she wanted to be alone.
In the reality show, 10 or more men and women spend a week together in a holiday resort. Over several stages, contestants express their interests toward each other and choose a final partner on the last day. Many contestants become interested in different potential partners throughout the week.
Yonhap News said that police found several men showed interest in Jeon in the early stages of the filming. By the end, however, it wasn't certain if she would become a couple with the man she liked.
Screenshots of text messages she exchanged with her close friends on KakaoTalk instant messenger, circulated online.
The messages assumed to be written by Jeon said, "The members of the cast said that I would suffer a heavy blow… I had no control over my facial expression, but the camera was focusing on me. I was so frustrated."
They continued, "I left the filming location and am heading to the hospital in the filming crew's vehicle. I thought too much that I now have a headache and feel like vomiting. I want to go back home."
Another text message sent to her friend said, "I told (the writers of the show) I thought it over again but decided this isn't right, so would like to cancel my appearance. They said they have already obtained approval and bought tickets, so I cannot cancel."