Jang at the 45th Baeksang Arts Awards in February 2009
|Born||25 January 1980|
Jeongeup, North Jeolla Province, South Korea
|Died||7 March 2009 (aged 29)|
Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea
|Cause of death||Suicide|
|Revised Romanization||Jang Ja-yeon|
Jang Ja-yeon (Korean: 장자연; 25 January 1980 – 7 March 2009) was a South Korean actress. She was born in Jeongeup, North Jeolla Province, South Korea. She debuted in the entertainment industry when she appeared in a television commercial in 2006. She was known for being part of the KBS television drama series Boys Over Flowers as Sunny, one of the antagonists of the series.
At the time of her death at the age of 29, Jang had been starring in Boys Over Flowers. She had been suffering from depression, and it was revealed in 2019 that the initial investigation into her death in 2009 was corrupted and false. The 2009 investigation concluded that her death was a suicide at first, and was reopened in 2018. Her death caused a national scandal in 2009 when it was widely spread by the media that she had been sexually and physically abused by a number of prominent entertainment executives during her career, most importantly the CEO of Jang's former talent agency, The Contents Entertainment, Kim Sung-hoon. After three witness testified against the CEO, Kim was found guilty of abuse by the Korean courts, specifically of forcing girls from his agency to come to parties where he was prostituting them to entertainment executives and also physically and verbally abusing them.
Jang made her debut in 2006 in a television commercial. Her big break came in Boys Over Flowers playing the role of Sunny, one of a trio of girls who antagonize the female lead played by Ku Hye-sun. At the time of her death, Jang was awaiting the release of her first two films, They Are Coming and Penthouse Elephant.
Jang was known to have had difficulties with her management agency. It was believed that in her seven-page unconfirmed suicide note, the actress alleged her management regularly beat her and demanded she submit to ongoing sexual exploitation with industry professionals and cultural elites, naming almost two dozen executives.
Since the death of her parents in a traffic accident in 1999, Jang had been living with her older sister and younger brother. Prior to her own death, Jang had been suffering from clinical depression and had received medical treatment for her illness during the past year.
Death and subsequent scandal
Jang Ja-yeon was found hanged at her home in the Bundang district of Seongnam, Gyeonggi province, on 7 March 2009. During a phone call at 3:30 p.m. that afternoon, Jang had complained to her sister about the "overwhelming stress" she was under, saying that she "wanted to die". Having later been unable to reach her on the phone, Jang's sister returned to their shared home at 7:42 p.m. to find her body hanging from the stairway banister.
A police investigation concluded that her death was a suicide, and found no evidence of foul play. Jang is believed to have killed herself at around 4:30 pm. An alleged suicide note left by Jang describes how she was beaten and forced to entertain and have sex with several program directors, CEOs and media executives, causing considerable debate about relations in the entertainment industry, as well as a police probe into her management agency.
According to widespread South Korean reports, it was believed that Jang claimed that her agent Kim Sung-hoon had regularly beaten her and forced her to have sex with a string of VIPs, including directors, media executives and CEOs. Kim Sung-hoon, who was in Japan, denied the accusations. Jang left a 7-page note listing at least 31 names of media executives, CEOs, and directors that she claimed she was forced into having sex with. South Korean police have suppressed the full list. Later on, it was also reported that the 7-page note might not be directed by Jang herself. However, a partial list of the 31 people involved was widely spread on the internet , including Bang Sang Hoon, CEO of The Chosun Ilbo daily; Vice-President of Sports Chosun, Bang Myung-Hoon; JoongAng Ilbo ("Central Journal")'s Director of Advertising, Lee Jae Young; Chairman of Kolon, Lee Woong Ryeol; Chairman of Lotte, Shin Kyuk Ho; former KBS PD, CEO of Olive 9, Go Dae Hwa; producer of KBS's Geumji Ok Yeob, Jun Chang Geun; producer for KBS, MBC, SBS, Jung Seho; producer for KBS's Boys Over Flowers, Jun Gi Sang; and Broadcasting/Music producer of Playful Kiss, Boys Over Flowers, Perfect Couple and Goong, Song Byung Joon. The Chosun Ilbo later issued a statement saying that it was not their current CEO, Bang Sang Hoon, but their former CEO, whose name has not been revealed.
The former manager of Jang's management agency, Kim Sung-hoon, was arrested in Tokyo, Japan in June 2009 for overstaying his visa. Korean police requested Kim's extradition on a warrant related to Jang's death. At the time of his arrest, Kim stated that he "committed a crime in South Korea and overstayed in Japan to avoid being arrested". Twenty figures were investigated by the police, resulting in seven prosecutions. Kim was sentenced to one year in jail, two years of probation and 160 hours of community service.
Approximately 250,000 fans visited Jang's website on the day of her death to express their condolences, with a further 700,000 visiting the site the following day, while the entire cast of Boys Over Flowers paid their last respects at the mourning hall set up at the Seoul National University Hospital in Bundang. Jang's funeral was held there on 9 March, and was attended by family, friends and fellow actors, including Boys Over Flowers lead Ku Hye-sun. Her cremated remains were buried next to her parents in Jeongeup, North Jeolla province.
In 2019, President Moon Jae-in issued a thorough re-investigation into Jang's case as well as a proper investigation into the Burning Sun scandal and the sex scandal of former high-ranking Ministry of Justice official, Kim Hak-eui. Jang's former labelmate, Yoon Ji-oh, came forward publicly with her testimony about the agency's mistreatment of Jang as a result of the reopened investigation into Jang's death. Later on, Jang's ex-boyfriend, Choi, came forward to suspect Yoon's intention while she was promoting her book regarding Jang's death and also receiving donation from her crowdfunding accounts. Choi accused Yoon that she was not a friend of Jang and he never heard of Yoon's name when Jang was alive. Yoon is currently being sued by the people from South Korea who donated money to her.
Due to the controversory of Jang's case and the rumors since Jang's death, all the accusations from the media could not be used as evidence to press charges on any figures involved. Thus, Jang's former manager, Kim Sung-hoon is by far the only person got arrested in this case.
|2009||Boys Over Flowers||Sunny|||
|2009||Searching for the Elephant||Hye-mi|||
|The Weird Missing Case of Mr. J||Min-a|||
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