This is all very sad, particularly because Choi Jin-shil seems to have been very depressed, but not to the extent that anybody around her could have foreseen such dire actions.
(Sports Chosun has a lovely collection of photos over the years chronicling Choi Jin-shil’s career.)
The police have ruled Choi’s death a suicide — while there has been no explicit suicide note found, her last words to friends seem to have hinted at her intention (although this is all seen in hindsight, of course). The medical examiner determined no external wounds, no sign of murder or foul play. A memo was found, which didn’t contain any concrete details indicating suicide, but showed that she was greatly affected by Ahn Jae-hwan’s death and the subsequent turmoil.
She was said to have expressed prior to her death: “I’m saddened at the people of this world. I don’t understand why they’d torment someone with accusations of moneylending or whatnot.”
Friends and former co-stars are in shock; her co-star from the 1992 drama Jealousy, Choi Su-jong, “conveys his utmost condolences and grief.” Seeing some hateful replies online that were posted in response to the news of her death, he deplored, “How can anyone act like this?”
Apparently the day before her death, Choi had spoken to her Last Scandal co-star Jung Jun-ho over the phone and told him, “What’s wrong with this world?” When it was falsely circulated that she’d lent Ahn Jae-hwan money (she’s a good friend of his widow), leading to his suicide, some people even called her a ruthless loan shark and implied she had a role in his murder. (The murder rumors are spurious and unfounded.)
When asked on the 2nd if those words indicated that she’d decided to end her life, Jung was unable to speak for a long moment. He then said, “With our upcoming drama [Last Scandal season 2], I had been talking with Jin-shil regularly on the phone. ‘Jun-ho, how can the world accuse me of being a loan shark? This isn’t happening, is it?’ she kept asking.”
Jung had told her, “It must be upsetting, but it’s a stress that famous people have to put up with, isn’t it? Time will take care of things. You told the police the whole truth in the investigation, didn’t you?” However, he added, “I never could have even dreamed that she would do something so extreme.”
Choi Jin-shil’s manager was completely shocked at the news: “I didn’t get that feeling from her at all.”
Choi had made her last phone call at about 4 am on the morning she was discovered, to a friend who says, “I think she had been drinking. She lamented over her burdens for a long while.” As her mother found her body a mere two hours later (at approximately 6:15 am), this friend was likely the last person who spoke to Choi.
The friend continued, “Because it was such a late hour, after listening to her grievances for a long time, I told her, ‘Even if only for the sake of your children, be strong. Let’s talk again on a brighter day’ and hung up the phone. I couldn’t even imagine this would happen.”
Actress Kim Hee-sun posted a message on her personal homepage reading: “Beloved unni, please don’t be troubled by people up in heaven and be happy…be well!! I love you…”
The drama that was to be Choi’s next project, Last Scandal Season 2, is now up in the air despite being fairly far along in the planning process. The first season ended in April to much popularity and spawned the word “jumarella” to refer to Choi Jin-shil’s ajumma Cinderella character. The sequel was to reprise Choi and Jung Jun-ho as the two leads; screenplays were in the process of being written and filming to begin in December, to air early next year. At the moment, a production rep said the project will probably be discontinued, although no official decisions have been made.
Paying their respects —
Younger brother Choi Jin-young:
Ex-husband Jo Sung-min, former co-star Ahn Jae-wook (Star in My Heart):
One of Choi Jin-shil’s best friends Jung Sun-hee (Ahn Jae-hwan’s widow):
Another good friend Uhm Jung-hwa:
Good friend Shin Ae, with whom Choi was known to have a sisterly relationship; her children call Shin Ae “aunt.”
Last Scandal co-stars Byun Jung-soo and Jung Woong-in:
Lee Byung-heon and Lee Sora:
Last Scandal of My Life co-star Lee Young-ja, who’d known Choi for more than ten years, was reportedly unable to control her emotions at the funeral location. She cried out, “I’ll die with you” and made odd neck-grasping gestures while others stopped her.
Rose-colored Life co-star Sohn Hyun-joo:
Jo Yeon-woo and Lee Deok-hwa:
Actress Lee Seung-yeon:
- Choi Jin-shil found dead, indicators point to suicide
- Mourning Ahn Jae-hwan
- Ahn Jae-hwan found dead in apparent suicide
- Extending the Choi family line