A leading TV producer responsible for some of the biggest hits of the Korean Wave was discovered dead on Tuesday in an apparent suicide. Police said that the body of Kim Jong-hak was found in a small rented room in a building in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province.
A suicide note and burned-out coal briquettes were found in the room. Kim’s family did not want an autopsy.
Kim began working as a producer for MBC in 1977 and rose to fame in 1991 by producing the 38-episode drama "Eyes of Dawn." He became a freelance producer in 1992, and produced the mega-hit series "Sandglass" in 1995, which achieved phenomenal 64.5 percent viewership ratings for SBS, which was then a newcomer.
In 1998, he set up his own production company and produced a string of hits including "Full House" in 2004, "White Tower" and "Taewangsasingi (The Four Guardian Gods of the King)" in 2007 and "Beethoven Virus" in 2008.
But Kim sold the company in 2009, and a string of flops exacerbated his finances during the following years. The drama "Faith" he produced last year did not garner enough ratings, resulting in W640 million (US$1=W1,118) in unpaid fees for actors. Kim was also investigated by police over complaints filed by people who invested in his shows.
He was apparently devastated recently to find that a travel ban prevented him from going to China to produce a movie. He told his friends that his own life appeared to have become a soap opera.
Friends praised his eye for detail. "He was a true master of his craft who insisted on perfection, and this passion had run into a brick wall," said Kim Seung-soo at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.