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Choi Jin-sil, 1968 - 2008

Popular actress in South Korea

October 03, 2008|From the Associated Press

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — Choi Jin-sil, one of South Korea's most popular actresses, was found dead Thursday in an apparent suicide after suffering from post-divorce depression and online rumors about her financial dealings, police said. She was 39.

Choi, whose fame earned her the nickname "The Nation's Actress," is believed to have hanged herself in the bathroom of her Seoul home, said Yang Jae-ho, chief investigator at Seoul's Seocho Police Station.

Family members said she had been depressed since a 2004 divorce, and was distraught over rumors linking her to the suicide of a fellow actor a month ago, he said. She had denied the rumors that she had pressed the actor to pay back a large loan.

"It's obviously suicide," Yang told reporters, citing a doctor's examination of Choi's body and testimony from family members and friends. He said an investigation was underway and that an autopsy would be performed.

No formal suicide note has been found, but Choi sent cellphone text messages twice Wednesday night to her makeup assistant, asking her to "take care of (my) children no matter what happens" and telling her, "I'm sorry," the investigator said.

Choi's mother told police that the actress returned home drunk around midnight Wednesday, crying and denying that she had lent money to actor Ahn Jae-hwan, who was found dead in his car last month.

Choi denied the rumors and asked police to investigate who circulated the claims that Ahn killed himself after Choi pressured him to repay the debt.

Born in Seoul on Dec. 24, 1968, Choi made her debut in the late 1980s as a bright-eyed ingenue, quickly becoming one of South Korea's best-loved actresses.

She starred in a number of box-office hits, including "How to Top My Wife" (1994) and "My Love, My Bride" (1990), as well as TV dramas such as "Bad Woman, Good Woman," "Jealousy" and "My Rosy Life."

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 in recent years. She had married baseball star Cho Sung-min in 2000 while he was playing for the Japanese professional baseball team Yomiuri Giants, but they divorced in 2004, with the deterioration of their relationship becoming tabloid fodder. They had two children younger than age 7.

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