Lee Eun Ju and her last movie ‘The Scarlet Letter’

It is a known fact that in recent times the rampant case of celebrity suicides in South Korea has created quite a stir not only within the Korean showbiz industry but it has somehow caught the attention of the world and concerns about the rise in this disturbing case has left many of us wondering why this vicious cycle has become somewhat of a trend within the Korean showbiz and music circle. More often do we learn about their sad and tragic fate that has befallen some of these gifted actors and actresses due to several factors (that is also common in Hollywood or anywhere else in this world) like depression, pressures of fame, nasty rumors, scandals, personal problems and even fears of fading away from the spotlight that had once made them instant celebrities during the height of the vast growing Korean Wave that swept the world off its feet… and one such celebrity who fell from grace was the late actress Lee Eun Ju.

A black and white image of the late Korean actress Lee Eun Ju (photo courtesy of Hancinema)

According to my small research, Lee Eun Ju’s death was one, if not, the very first prominent suicide case of a famous Korean actor that was publicized during the height of the thriving Korean Wave in early 2005. Police reported that she hanged herself with a belt with both of her wrists slit and even wrote to her mom for the last time, apologizing and saying how much she loved her, using her own blood. Lee’s death became a catalyst for other famous Korean celebrity suicides in the years that followed which involved such well-known stars like Jeong Da-bin (2007), Ahn Jae-hwan (2008), Choi Jin-sil (2008), Kim Ji-hoo (2008), Jang-Ja-yeon (2009), Park Hye-sang (2010) and Park Yong-ha (2010) who was famous for his role as Choi Ji-woo‘s estranged fiancé in the blockbuster Korean drama ‘Winter Sonata’ (which became one of the driving forces behind the success of the Korean Wave.) It was said that the family of Lee Eun Ju blamed depression and bouts of mental illness as the main factors for her suicide, and one of the more prominent factors for her untimely demise was that Lee was beginning to suffer from insomnia mainly due to the number of nude scenes she had made for the movie ‘The Scarlet Letter‘ (2004), which was to become her very last movie before she took her own life the following year. It is also rumored that she accepted the project mainly to boost her fledgling movie career. It is common knowledge to some of us that there are some actors and actresses who are on the brink of losing their career in the industry oftentimes would bite the bullet and appear in movie projects that requires them to show some skin, it may not be flat out “sleazy” but it could be “raunchy” at times depending on the script and the plot of the story. Getting involved in such movie projects can either launch anybody’s career to soaring heights or instantly revive your slumbering career as an actor with new blood in hopes of getting more opportunities in the future. Theories made surrounding her suicide thought to have been “mainly” caused by this movie, but Lee Eun Ju had her prior experience in nudity and on-screen sex in one of her earlier movies entitled ‘Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors‘ back in 2000, which was said to be a bit more graphic as it contained more nude scenes than that of her last film… I was lucky enough to have found someone who had uploaded the movie ‘The Scarlet Letter’ in several equal parts on YouTube and so it was time for me to determine on how much of an impact this could cause for such a wonderful actress like Lee to commit suicide. (Here below is a clip taken from the controversial movie where Lee and fellow actress Eom Ji-won are shown engaging in a short lesbian kissing scene):

Basically ‘The Scarlet Letter’ is an erotic thriller about a police officer who investigates a puzzling murder case while he struggled to cope up with his relationships to his pregnant wife and a demanding mistress (played by Lee) and somehow this film has been compared to its Hollywood counterparts like ‘Basic Instinct‘ and ‘Fatal Attraction.’ The movie has a strong impact to its viewers and it has been categorized by some as “disturbing” due to the nature of the story. Personally, the nude scenes of Lee Eun Ju in this movie were done in good taste and her erotic scenes were executed artistically… and in my honest opinion, what she did in the movie was not enough reason for her to use this as an excuse for killing herself, but it all points to one major factor that triggered her suicide and that is basically the public scrutiny she got when the film was released. The presses and netizens lashed out a barrage of scrutiny over the movie’s highly charged sex scenes which included the infamous “trunk scene” that was shown towards the end of the film. A demanding role, public criticism mixed with personal, financial and career issues ended up with a lethal dosage of severe depression that sealed the fate of this once wonderful and talented Korean actress. It is sad to think that with her untimely death spawned a ghoulish trend in other famous Korean celebrity suicides… only time will tell when this vicious cycle will end, and God-forbid that we won’t be reading on print or on the internet that another Korean actor or actress has fallen victim to this kind of morbid act…


2 thoughts on “Lee Eun Ju and her last movie ‘The Scarlet Letter’

  1. I had a very close friend who committed suicide. Personally, I think that people who commit suicide are deeply depressed and hopeless…they are in a very dark place—a place where we can only hope never to enter. Her death never leaves me and I think of her so often…I blame myself for not making more efforts to reach her. I think there is truth that publicity can be a detriment to someone who is struggling in their inner self. I think all of us need to be more careful of what we say and of what comes out of our mouths towards others. We are all interconnected. What we do does impact each other — some times we fail to remember that…
    I hope that the suicides have stopped since you wrote this in 2011…and it is now 2014. Our great comedian, Robin Williams, a brilliant comedian and sensitive individual, recently committed suicide–it has affected many of us–he was our HOPE…but he, too, had his own demons. We all have to be more vigilant and help each other.
    Blessings to you, G. Manalastas!

    • Oh my, I’m so sorry to hear about your close friend, Johann. Dealing that grief and loss of a friend or family from suicide was never easy and oftentimes the guilt of having not to do much in helping that person through their difficult times stays with you for the rest of your life. I am hoping that in my own little way I have made a small contribution to somehow stop the trend of suicides not only in Korea but all over the world as well. The rising number of people suffering from depression nowadays is quite alarming and the likes of Robin Williams and other high-profile cases of depression-related suicides is just the tip of the iceberg. The only we thing we can do right now, like you’ve mentioned, is to be more vigilant and help them immediately once you get to see those noticeable signs of a depressed individual on the verge of committing suicide. Thanks Johann for sharing your story about your close friend, gladly appreciated it. Have a great week ahead and stay safe always.

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