Runway model Kim Yu-ri was found dead in a 33 sq.m flat in Samseong-dong on Monday night. She was 22.
Police said Kim, who was 177 cm tall, weighed only 47 kg, 18 kg less than the average weight for her height. But she was considered normal in the modeling industry. "She was not suffering from malnutrition and questioning of her friends and family revealed that she was not anorexic," police said.
The cause of death has yet to be confirmed. Police believe she committed suicide by overdosing on drugs since she had been receiving treatment for depression, had no work recently and suffered a major blow when her father died of cancer three months ago. Kim's mother died from a heart attack two years ago.
Police said Kim sent a text message to a friend the day before her death that she had taken sedatives because she couldn't sleep and was going to bed.
Kim debuted in 2007 by entering a supermodel contest and was considered one of the most promising models appearing on the runways of the Seoul and Daegu collections. She recently modeled for designer Lie Sang-bong's 2011-2012 fall/winter collection.
Kim had complained about models' lives on her website. "We eat a bowl of rice a day and don't even drink water after 6 p.m.," she wrote. "I work out three to four hours a day, get measured with a ruler every day and have more than 100 pictures taken."
Industry insiders say models endure the toughest conditions in the entertainment industry. The average annual income in show business in 2010 was W33 million for actors and W25 million for singers, but just W10 million for models (US$1=W1,082). One staffer with a large modeling agency said, "Kim was probably paid between W500,000 to W1 million each time she walked the runway, but fashion shows aren't held often and it's hard to appear in a show unless you're famous, since the modeling industry is saturated."
Models also have short careers. One industry insider said, "Actors can hone their acting and singers can improve their singing abilities and prolong their careers, but the models are treated like 'rejects' when they reach their late 20s." And excessive dieting makes them vulnerable to depression.