Jang Ja-yeon’s Profile
|Born||25 January 1980
Jeongeup, North Jeolla Province, South Korea
|Died||7 March 2009 (aged 29)
Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea
|Cause of death||Suicide by hanging|
|Revised Romanization||Jang Jayeon|
Jang Ja-yeon’s Personal Life and Career
Since the death of her parents in a traffic accident in 1999, Jang lived with her older sister and younger brother. Prior to her own death, Jang had been suffering from clinical depression, and had received medical treatment for her illness for a year.
Jang made her debut in 2006 in a television commercial. Her big break came in Boys Over Flowers where she played the role of Sunny, one of a trio of girls who antagonise the female lead played by Ku Hye-sun. At the time of her death, Jang was awaiting the release of her first two films, They Are Coming and Penthouse Elephant.
Jang was known to have had difficulties with her management agency. In her seven-page suicide note, the actress alleged that her management regularly beat her, and demanded she submit to ongoing sexual exploitation by industry professionals and cultural elites, naming almost two dozen executives.
Jang Ja-yeon’s Plastic Surgery
The aftermath of Jang’s suicide triggered a federal government investigation into “slave contracts,” in which young talent, mostly women, become locked into exclusive contracts by their agents requiring them to work long hours for low pay, receive unwanted plastic surgery and, in Jang’s case, turn to prostitution. We know that she didn’t want to have plastic surgery.
Jang Ja-yeon’s Death
Jang Ja-yeon was found having hung herself in her home in the Bundang district of Seongnam, Gyeonggi province, on 7 March 2009. During a phone call at 3:30 p.m. that afternoon, Jang had complained to her sister about the “overwhelming stress” she was under, saying that she “wanted to die”. When she was later unable to reach her on the phone, Jang’s sister returned to their shared home at 7:42 p.m. to find her body hanging from the stairway banister.
A police investigation concluded that her death was a suicide, and found no evidence of foul play. Jang is believed to have killed herself at around 4:30 pm. An alleged suicide note left by Jang describes how she was beaten and forced to entertain and have sex with several program directors, CEOs, and media executives, causing considerable debate about relations in the entertainment industry, as well as a police probe into her management agency.
The former manager of Jang’s agency, Kim Sung-hoon, was arrested in Tokyo, Japan in June 2009 for overstaying his visa. Korean police requested Kim’s extradition on a warrant related to Jang’s death. Kim, at the time of his arrest, stated that he “committed a crime in South Korea and overstayed in Japan to avoid being arrested.” Twenty figures were investigated by the police, resulting in seven prosecutions. Kim was sentenced to one year in prison, two years of probation, and 160 hours of community service.
Approximately 250,000 fans visited Jang’s website on the day of her death to express their condolences, with a further 700,000 the following day, while the entire cast of Boys Over Flowers paid their last respects at a mourning hall set up at the Seoul National University Hospital in Bundang. Jang’s funeral was held there on March 9th, and was attended by family, friends, and fellow actors, including Boys Over Flowers lead Ku Hye-sun. Her cremated remains were buried next to her parents in Jeongeup, North Jeolla province.