Reality TV Contestant Found Dead on Set

A contestant on a blind-date program on SBS TV was found dead early Wednesday morning on the set of the show on Jeju Island. Police believe the 29-year-old woman committed suicide.

The body of the woman, identified as Jeon, was discovered by the program's producer and another contestant in the bathroom of a Bed and Breakfast on the resort island.

Police in Seogwipo said the bathroom door was locked and the sound of running water could be heard, prompting the producer and the fellow contestant to think that Jeon was taking a shower. The contestant forced the door open but found Jeon hanging by the cord of a hair drier.

A doctor present at the set of the program attempted to resuscitate her, but to no avail. She was pronounced dead when the ambulance arrived.

A diary was found on the floor of the bathroom containing entries Jeon had written since November of last year. She wrote she was having a "hard time" and "no longer want to live." She had also written that she was attracted to one of the male participants of the program, which is called "Jjak," meaning partner in Korean.

The program, aired weekly, introduces seven men and five women on a blind date and has them interact with each other in the B&B for three days.

A police spokesman said, "According to accounts obtained from the crew and contestants, all 12 contestants had dinner on the first floor on Tuesday and retreated to their own rooms afterward." They were nearing the end of filming the following day.

An office worker, Jeon applied to appear on the show at the recommendation of a friend. The police spokesman said, "Jeon was apparently popular during the initial stage of filming and a male participant even showed interest in her, but she fell in popularity as filming continued."

Jeon's father, who flew to Jeju to be interviewed by police, told reporters that his daughter had called her mother on Tuesday night telling her she was having a "tough time."

Cameras were installed in the rooms and living room of the B&Bed to record the movements of the participants. The bathrooms were the only places that did not have cameras. Police said there were no signs of injuries other than the ligature marks on her neck, supporting the conclusion that she committed suicide.

The producer of the program and SBS expressed "deep remorse" over the incident but denied any undue pressure during the filming of the program.

The show, which has enjoyed growing popularity since its launch in March 2011, requires contestants to follow certain rules for clothes and behavior -- for example, those who fail to find a partner have to eat alone. It has stirred up controversy at times for its failure to provide honest information about participants and alleged distortion of their character.

englishnews@chosun.com / Mar. 06, 2014 11:45 KST