Remorseful actress commits suicide over sexy film role

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 February, 2005, 12:00am

The South Korean entertainment world was in mourning yesterday for Lee Eun-joo, a popular actress who committed suicide after apparently being filled with remorse over taking a sexually explicit movie role.

Lee's depiction of a sultry jazz singer in last year's hit movie The Scarlet Letter broke an unwritten rule of South Korean cinema: keep your clothes on at all costs.

Her family said Lee, 25, had been battling depression and insomnia following the release of the movie, in which she acted out a torrid sex scene with lead actor Han Suk-kyu. Her angst was not eased by the fact that the film was selected as the closing movie at one of Asia's biggest film events, the Pusan International Film Festival.

It was unusual for such a high-profile actress to undertake such a sexually explicit role.

South Korean actors and entertainers, especially the women, must have squeaky-clean public personas off - and frequently on - camera. Some actors will simulate the act of kissing rather than having their lips touch, to maintain their chaste images.

Lee was found by her brother hanging from a necktie in a walk-in closet of her apartment, just outside Seoul. Police said Lee apparently tried to first kill herself by cutting her wrist with a knife.

A note was found nearby, apparently in her own blood, saying, 'Mom, I am sorry and I love you'.

A steady stream of stars yesterday turned up at the hospital in Pundang, near Seoul, to pay their final respects. Among the big names running the gauntlet of paparazzi outside were Lee Byung-hun, Cha Tae-hyun, and Song Hyun-Ju.

The actress' brother, Lee Gwang-seop, said he and his mother had talked with his sister at her flat until the early hours of Tuesday morning as she was suffering from insomnia.

He returned to her apartment in the afternoon when she failed to answer the phone.

Lee's suicide comes just four days after her graduation from Dankook University. Friends and professors reported she had been in good spirits.

The producers of The Scarlet Letter have denied that the sexy part drove her to suicide. They said the role was no different from those faced by other actresses.

Lee also played a part in South Korea's biggest-grossing film, Taeguki, titled in English The Brotherhood of War.