These days, it's common to make jokes about investors killing themselves or stockbrokers leaping off ledges, but suicide is not a funny subject and especially so in the South Korean entertainment industry now. Since last year, it's become a minor epidemic. This month alone, three showbiz-related personalities have taken their own lives. This depressing news brings to seven the number of high-profile suicides in the country's entertainment industry since last year. On October 2, it was reported actress Choi Jin-sil hung herself in her bathroom. A major star in the 1980s and 90s, the 40-year-old had gone through a high-profile divorce and was also rumoured to be in serious debt. News reports said her mother told police Choi had been drunk and in tears the night before and she had messaged her assistant asking her to 'take care of [my two] children no matter what happens' and that 'I'm sorry'. A macabre irony is that Choi was rumoured to have pressured another entertainer, found dead the previous month, to repay a debt. Ahn Jae-hwan killed himself in September by burning charcoal inside his SUV. Business failure seemed to be the motive for this tragedy. He had been missing for about three weeks before his body was found. Just a day after reeling from Choi's suicide, South Korea was rocked again by the demise of notable personality Jang Chae-won. Only 26, Jang gained infamy last year on a game show - the same show on which she had appeared three years earlier as a man. At that time, the show's judges were asked to guess who among a group of contestants had undergone cosmetic surgery. Three years after her first appearance, Jang appeared again on the show to say she had 'become a woman through transgender surgery'. Like Choi, Jang hung herself and left a note that said, 'I'm sorry mum, next time I'll do better'. Three days later, another actor with sexual orientation issues hung himself. Model-turned-actor Kim Ji-hoo was just starting to break into television when he announced that he was a homosexual. Unfortunately, Korea's macho society wasn't ready for an openly gay male star. After his confession, his management company reportedly dumped him and fashion and television shows cancelled his appearances. The prejudice eventually got to the actor. His suicide note read: 'I'm lonely and in a difficult situation. Please cremate my body.' Kim was just 23. Needless to say, the entertainment pages in South Korean magazines and newspapers haven't offered much of an escape from the realities of life lately. The current rash of showbiz suicides in the country can only be matched by the first two months of 2007 when three other entertainers committed felo-de-se. Pop singer U Nee (real name Lee Hye-ryeon) hung herself in January last year due to bouts of depression and the 'pressure of fame'. It seems she was pushed into presenting a provocative image - getting breast implants and posing for adult publications such as Playboy. Less than a month later, another female entertainer was found dead in her bathroom. Instead of a suicide note, she left a posting on her blog which hinted at her 'complicated' circumstance and 'losing her identity'. Actress Jeong Da-bin apparently suffered from depression as well, although others speculated she was worried about her career which was beginning to wane. Not soon after, television actor Yeo Jae-goo took his life. Sadly, this is not an uncommon occurrence in South Korea. In 2005, one of the most popular and promising actresses of the time, Lee Eun-ju - who starred in films Taegukgi, The Scarlet Letter and Lovers' Concerto - slit her wrists. She was just 24. In Hong Kong, it was traumatic enough when one star, Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing, jumped to his death in 2003. As with many of the Korean celebrities, depression was a factor. We could hypothesise that the sensitive and artistic nature of these individuals made them vulnerable to depression, but it's obviously not just actors and singers who are that way. The Korea Youth Counselling Institute released a poll recently that found six out of 10 teenagers had seriously thought about taking their own lives. I don't know what it is about Korean life that makes it so stressful - Hong Kong is not exactly the happiest and most relaxed place on Earth either - but Seoul is in a state of shock right now dealing with these incidents. It does make you wonder if that's why their television melodramas are so full of characters sobbing and crying. Care to get hammered on soju this weekend?