The Cause of Actress Lee Eun-joo’s Death

Recalling The Late Famous Actress, Lee Eun-joo

Studying piano so much at her young age, little Eun-joo (22 December 1980 – February 22, 2005) didn’t expect to become the hottest female celebrity in South Korea and even Asia. She was working as a uniform model in a mid-1990s, and then was offered the chance to take roles in various TV dramas, such as Start and KAIST. Her first appearance in a leading role was in a movie directed by Hong Sang-soo, titled Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors (2000).

She was the rising star of the time, full of beauty and acting talent. “I’m called a new generation star, but I don’t want to be the kind of person who achieves instant fame and then is quickly forgotten. I want to learn step-by-step how to become a good actress, and gradually work my way up. A star achieves brilliance, but is soon forgotten; to become an actress takes more time.”,  she said in an interview. Such a hard worker and humble woman.

Lee Eun-joo later starred in some big hit movies and dramas, like the Korean War movie Taegukgi. The last movie she took on was The Scarlet Letter, directed by Daniel H. Byun. This movie was scandalous, yet so good. It’s been speculated it was the main source of the sorrow that leads her to death. What happened?

The D(eath)-Day

On the night of February 22, 2005, Lee Eun-joo was found dead at her apartment in Bundang, Seongnam. She had slit her wrists and then hanged herself. She left some suicide notes scrawled in blood, “Mom, I am sorry and I love you.” A separate note said, “I wanted to do too much. Even though I live, I’m not really alive. I don’t want anyone to be disappointed. It’s nice having money… I wanted to make money.” 

She also wrote a regretful note, “I want to return to the days one year ago” and then a note addressed to someone, “The last call… Thank you. You told me that today is the right day.” Reading the notes full of her sorrow is chilling.

It was so sad to know that the lovely Lee Eun-joo chose to end her life at the very young age of 25, just as her career was taking off. She had just graduated from Dankook University a few days earlier. The news of her death was the hottest headline of the time.

The funeral was held two days later, at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province. About 200 fellow actors, actresses, and film crew attended the funeral.

Moon Geun-young, the late actress’s close friend, read the funeral address. “Her firecracker-like passion has ended, and she has left our side. We will remember her forever. She was always modest, warm, sincere, and beautiful. Leave the burden and pain of this world behind, and take only the good memories, your warmth and beautiful heart with you.” For several moments, Moon Geun-young was overcome with emotions and unable to continue.