Top Actress Lee Eun-ju's Suicide Shocks Nation

Lee Eun-ju, who shot to fame with her roles in the TV drama "Firebird" and the film "Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War," hanged herself in her apartment on Tuesday. She was 25. Lee's brother alerted police after discovering her lifeless body at her home in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province in the early afternoon.

Marks on the body indicated that Lee had also tried to slit her wrists. A letter written in blood and found at the scene read, "Mother, I'm sorry. I love you." In a separate suicide note, the actress wrote, "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."

Lee's family said the actress had been experiencing insomnia and showing signs of depression over racy nude scenes she did for the film "The Scarlet Letter," which debuted last October. They believe this was the reason she killed herself.

Lee broke onto the scene in 1996 as an advertising model for school uniforms. Beginning with a 1997 role in the KBS drama "Start," she appeared in a string of TV dramas and movies.

Through films like Hong Sang-soo's "Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors," "Bungee Jumping on Their Own," "Unborn But Forgotten" and "Au Revoir, UFO," Lee had secured a place on Chungmu-ro's A-list. Last year, she appeared in the TV drama "Firebird," winning great acclaim for her portrayal of a strong yet feminine character.

The news sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry and her fan community. Internet sites devoted to Lee were being bombarded with condolences, and some fan sites temporarily crashed due to the sudden onslaught of traffic.

At a fan site on Naver.com, hundreds of posts expressed disbelief or hope that the story was false. Internet user "nsy9251" said, "You were really beautiful on screen... I want to see that smile once again." Rumor also ran riot, with comments reading, "There was no reason for her to kill herself," "Perhaps this was foul play," or "She was worried about the 'entertainment x-file.'"

englishnews@chosun.com / 2 22, 2005 19:51 KST