After a rash of entertainer suicides in 2008, Korea faces its second of 2009
Todd Thacker (todd)
Last year Korea's entertainment industry was hit by a rash of suicides, including four in just the month of October. These deaths shocked South Koreans and drew the spotlight on social pressures and stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment here.
So far in 2009, there have been two deaths. The most recent suicide was 26-year-old actress Jang Ja-yeon, who had a role in the very popular TV drama "Boys over Flowers".
She hanged herself in her home at the weekend.
Family and friends have told reporters Jang was "depressed" and having contract difficulties with her management company, in addition to being dissatisfied about her role's "slipping significance" in "Boys over Flowers". She played one of the three "nasty school girls" who antagonize the protagonist character Jandi.
According to reports, when Jang was 16 her parents were both killed in a traffic accident. She had been living with her elder sister ever since.
According to the Korean blog "Hub of Sparkle" (http://www.koreasparkle.com), there have been "at least 10 suicides" by actors and actresses over the last couple of years. These include:
Actress Lee Eun-joo, 24, February 2005.
Actress and singer U;Nee, 25, January 2007
Actress Jeong Da-bin, 26, February 2007
'Weight loss star' Lee Eun-ji, 16, June 2007
Actor Ahn Jae-hwan, 36, September 2008
Actress Choi Jin-sil, 39, October 2008
Quiz show participant Jang Chae-won, 26, October 2008
Actor Kim Ji-who, 23, October 2008
Singer Lee Seo Hyun, 30, December 2008
Actor Kim Seok-gyun, 30, January 2009
Reasons for these prominent entertainers to kill themselves included depression, business difficulties and rumors of adultery, blackmail and homosexuality spread via the Internet.
Below is video of Jang Ja-yeon's friends and colleagues heading to the funeral home.
Back in 2007, OhmyNews citizen reporter Tania Campbell looked at suicide rates in South Korea.
"Suicide is the fourth cause of death in South Korea. A government report released at the end of 2006 stated that South Korea's suicide rate was the highest among the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2005", she wrote.
You can read the rest of the article, including quotes from Dr. Daniel Fisher, an American psychiatrist who visited South Korea at the invitation of the National Human Rights Commission in that year.
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