*Please be aware that this article is a special topic for September, the National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. While we are making the effort to handle this topic with care, some people may find the topic triggering. Suicide prevention hotlines and resources are listed at the bottom of this article.
Regardless of your position or status in life, depression is something that can affect any of us. At times, depression, anxiety, and other issues can make life seem truly unbearable, even driving some people to consider suicide. This is something that can affect anyone around the globe, even famous singers or actors.
Due to our love of Korean culture, it’s easy to focus on the bright and positive aspects of the entertainment industry, forgetting the challenges and pain that can accompany life in the spotlight.
While some advancement is finally being made concerning mental health issues in Korea, there is still a long way to go. In order to bring awareness to the rising number of suicides in Korea and around the world, we wanted to talk about some of the most famous celebrities who have chosen this tragic method of coping with their personal issues.
Park Yong Ha (1977-2010)
If you’re a hardcore drama fan, you will have seen this guy somewhere. Park Yong Ha debuted in 1994 and rose to fame in the early 2000s with Winter Sonata, the famous drama co-starring Bae Young Jun and Choi Ji Woo. He became a hit actor and singer in both Korea and Japan. After the successful drama A Man’s Story and his movie The Scam in 2009, the actor was scheduled to star in Comrades in July 2010. Sadly, however, he didn’t make it that far. Speculations still surface as to why a successful and well-known actor like Park Yong Ha would make that choice. Some said he was under too much stress after he started managing his own company, others claimed the news of his father’s malignant cancer was the reason, and some simply cried depression. Whether one or more of these reasons contributed to the decision, no one will ever fully know what went on in the mind of the 33-year-old actor.
Lee Eun Joo (1980-2005)
Steadily making a name for herself as an actress, Lee Eun Joo killed herself after leaving a note apologizing to her mother for her decision. The actress appeared in many popular films, including Bungee Jumping of Their Own and The Scarlet Letter. She was young and full of potential. So, why? Was it depression? Was it “insomnia after her nude scenes in The Scarlet Letter” as some people claimed? No one will ever truly know.
Ahn Jae Hwan (1972-2008)
Money issues— including a failed business and debtors storming in— was thought to be the reason behind Ahn Jae Hwan’s death. I watched him in Sunflower, and he was one of the few things I liked about the show.
The rising star killed himself by carbon monoxide poisoning while sitting in his car, first leaving an apology note to his newlywed wife. What makes this so sad is that the actor wasn’t found for several weeks, leading people to wonder what took his loved ones so long to find him.
Jeong Da Bin (1980-2007)
Most famous for Rooftop Cat, Jeong Da Bin committed suicide in the bathroom of her boyfriend’s apartment. The boyfriend stated that Jeong Da Bin was depressed because of lack of work, imprisonment of her manager, and cyber attacks on her appearance.
With only the boyfriend’s words to go on, no one will ever truly know what motivated this lovely young lady to take her life that day in his bathroom.
Kim Seok Hyun (1979-2009)
After getting a late start in his career, Kim Seok Hyun played minor roles in few productions on TV. You might recognise his face without being able to recall exactly where you know him from. At the age of 30, he took his life in his own home. Again, all that was left after his suicide were speculations on what led him to take this extreme measure. Many said it was due to depression from lack of work, but the public will never know.
Jang Ja Yeon (1982-2009)
Remember the three bullies in Boys Over Flowers? Jang Ja Yeon was one of them. She landed a CF and few other offers because of the popular drama. She was described as a rising star— beautiful and talented. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, she committed suicide in her family’s home. It seemed to be a result of depression, but this time, a sponsor scandal was also involved. In other words, it was said she was being sexually abused by the rich investors and executives of her company due to her “slave” contract. The actress left a long letter before her death, naming the culprits and mentioning that they had physically and sexually abused her under the permission of her agent. The reason behind her suicide definitely sounds plausible, but we may never know for sure as the truth never fully came to light. In the end, only the life of a poor young girl was snatched away. Meanwhile, the agent is still alive and prospering.
Woo Seung Yeon (1983-2009)
Failed auditions, anxiety, and depression are what led to the tragic suicide of this young star. In fact, she was already receiving treatment for depression. The ironic part is before her suicide, she sent her sister a message that said, “I’m sorry.” She uploaded the word “goodbye” to her personal page and changed the background music to a song called ”Sorry.” Her family knew she was getting worse and said so. Sadly, it seems that Woo Seung Yeon knew she needed help, but when that help didn’t arrive, she simply gave up.
Choi Jin Shil (1968-2008)
Choi Jin Shil will always be named as an iconic actress. “There was no other talent like hers,” many people have stated. She starred in many films and drama and was called “The Nation’s Actress.” However, her personal life was not easy. Her road manager died. She got married, but her husband turned out to be abusive. She filed for divorce and went through a public custody war, losing sponsors as a result. Her friend Ahn Jae Hwan (included earlier on this list) then committed suicide, and she was even accused of being involved in that. Things got really dirty and it was hard to cope with all of this in the public eye, so she opted out of the situation by choosing suicide, leaving behind her two young children.
Tragically, her high-profile suicide resulted in a temporary rise in suicides in Korea for the month after her death. Approximately 700 more people killed themselves in that month than in previous times. The entire tragic situation led the South Korean government to take a stronger stance against malicious and libelous comments from netizens since it was found to have been such a factor in Ms. Choi’s suicide.
Choi Jin Young (1970-2010)
Choi Jin Shil’s younger brother gained interest from producers because of the fame of his sister. He landed a small role or two, but people eventually lost interest in him as an actor. As a result, he fell into severe depression. He unsuccessfully attempted suicide a few times, but less than two years after the death of his sister, he managed to succeed. He did not blame his sister or his family, but constantly being compared to a highly successful sibling is definitely not the easiest way to live. My humble psychological analysis is that Choi Jin Young had lived completely under the dome of his sister. So when she committed suicide, he couldn’t go on and did the same. He even chose the same suicide method as his sister when he ended his own life.
Some readers might be wondering, “What can we do about it? Why are you telling us this?” Simply put, we can all do something. When we have opinions that aren’t so nice, we can keep them to ourselves. We can report the malicious comments by other internet users. We can help clean up the negative comments and prevent whatever terrible effect it has on celebrities. After all, they’re people just like us and each one struggles with their own issues that are often compounded by hateful, mean comments. More than anything, just take a stand when you see malicious comments online since those comments can be such an emotional and mental strain on celebrities.
In addition, we should understand that depression can affect us all, but suicide is never the answer. No matter how terrible your own situation is, ending your life is not the best way to deal with your problems. If you or a loved one struggles with suicidal thoughts, please get help immediately by calling 1-800-273-8255 or chatting online with a counselor from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. For international suicide prevention, please view the list of crisis centers and suicide hotlines in your own country by clicking HERE.
If you suspect one of your family members or friends is suicidal, click here to see a list of common signs of suicidal thoughts.
You are not alone! Get help today. Let’s all work together to stop suicide.
ParkChohwa is 24/7 doing things. She’s either at school or the university teaching, writing her thesis, drafting articles, learning languages, doing handicraft, or simply watching K. Anything to do with K or books attract her. Not 50 Shades though. 😉
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