Lee Eun-ju in 2004
December 22, 1980|
Gunsan, South Korea
February 22, 2005 (aged 24)|
Bundang, Seongnam, South Korea
|Cause of death||Suicide by hanging|
|Resting place||Goyang, South Korea|
|Other names||Lee Eun-joo|
|Agent||Namoo Actors (2005)|
|Revised Romanization||I Eun-ju|
Life and career
Born in Gunsan, Jeollabuk-do, South Korea, Lee studied piano for much of her youth, without giving much thought to becoming an actress. She moved to Seoul after graduating high school and was first noticed in the mid-1990s as a model for school uniforms. After finding work as a model, she began to be offered roles in various TV dramas, including Start and KAIST. Her film debut came in 1999, when she played the younger sister in Park Chong-wan's award-winning feature Rainbow Trout. Her first lead role came as the title character in acclaimed director Hong Sang-soo's Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (2000), where she gave one of the most memorable performances in all of Hong's films. Following this, she teamed with actor Lee Byung-hun in the 2001 hit film Bungee Jumping of Their Own, and also scored a hit opposite Cha Tae-hyun in the melodrama Lovers' Concerto.
Lee's later career was marked by several turns in films that failed at the box-office, plus a key role in the record-breaking Korean War film Taegukgi. In 2004 she appeared in the very popular Korean drama, Phoenix, and later that year she starred in her last feature, Daniel H. Byun's The Scarlet Letter which screened as the Closing Film at the 2004 Pusan International Film Festival.
"I'm called a new generation star, but I don't want to be the kind of person who achieves instant fame and then is quickly forgotten. I want to learn step-by-step how to become a good actress, and gradually work my way up. A star achieves brilliance, but is soon forgotten; to become an actress takes more time." [Interview Excerpt: Kino, #60, February 2000]
On the night of February 22, 2005, only a few days after her graduation from Dankook University, Lee committed suicide at her apartment in Bundang, Seongnam. She was 24 years old. She slit her wrists and hanged herself. The family blamed the suicide on severe bouts of depression and mental illness and said she had been suffering from insomnia due to the nude scenes she had done in The Scarlet Letter.
She left a suicide note scrawled in blood, in which she wrote, "Mom, I am sorry and I love you." A separate note said, "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."
The news of her death prompted a massive outpouring of grief from fellow actors and filmmakers and fans. Lee Eun-ju was cremated and enshrined in a crypt at Goyang. Hundreds of her fellow actors and entertainers attended her funeral. Vocalist Bada sang "You Were Born to be Loved", and friends spoke in her memory.
Her friends and colleagues have held memorials for Lee every year since her death. The 2007 event was marked by a music CD released in her name, featuring remastered versions of her cover performance of The Corrs' "Only When I Sleep" from The Scarlet Letter, as well as tribute performances by her friends in the entertainment industry.
|2000||Yeca||예카||Yeka||Internet short film|
|Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors||오! 수정||Oh! Su-jeong||Yang Su-jeong|
|Bloody Beach||해변으로 가다||Haebyeoneuro gada||PC 통신하는 여자||Cameo appearance|
|2001||Bungee Jumping of Their Own||번지 점프를 하다||Beonjijeompeureul hada||In Tae-hee|
|Ahmijimong||아미지몽||Ahmijimong||Ah-mi||Internet short film|
|2002||Lovers' Concerto||연애소설||Yeonae soseol||Kim Gyung-hee|
|Unborn But Forgotten||하얀방||Hayanbang||Han Su-jin|
|2003||Garden of Heaven||하늘정원||Haneul jeongwon||Kim Young-ju|
|2004||Au Revoir, UFO||안녕! 유에프오||Annyeong UFO||Choi Kyeong-woo|
|Taegukgi||태극기 휘날리며||Taegukgi Hwinalrimyeo||Kim Young-shin|
|The Scarlet Letter||주홍글씨||Juhong geulshi||Choi Ga-hee|
|1998||납량특선 8부작||Park Seong-ju||SBS||Appeared in episode 어느날 갑자기.|
|White Nights 3.98||백야 3.98||Baekya 3.98||young Anastasia||SBS|
|2000||Look Back in Anger||성난 얼굴로 돌아보라||Seongnan Eolgulro Dorabora||Jeong Su-jin||KBS2|
|1998||"Even After 10 Years"||십년이 지나도||Park Jin-young|
|1999||"Sad Gift"||슬픈 선물||Kim Jang-hoon|
|"Late Regrets"||늦은 후회||BoBo|
|2004||"I Was Thankful..."||고마웠다고...||Tim|
|2001||End Title: Oh! You Are a Beautiful Woman (Variation) - Narration||End Title 오 그대는 아름다운 여인 - 에 내레이션 참여||from Bungee Jumping of Their Own OST|
|2002||Lovers' Concerto Main Theme: Piano performance||연애소설 Main Theme: 피아노 연주||from Lovers' Concerto OST|
|Hi Ji-hwan, I'm Gyung-hee - Narration||지환아 안녕 나 경희야 - 내레이션|
|2004||Only When I Sleep||N/A||from The Scarlet Letter OST|
|2007||Lee Eun-ju: Only One||이은주 Only One||Lee Eun-joo tribute album|
Awards and nominations
|1996||Sunkyung Smart Student Uniform Model Contest||Silver Award||N/A||Won|
|2000||21st Blue Dragon Film Awards||Best New Actress||Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors||Nominated|
|2001||38th Grand Bell Awards||Best New Actress||Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors||Won|
|2002||23rd Blue Dragon Film Awards||Best Actress||Lovers' Concerto||Nominated|
|2004||25th Blue Dragon Film Awards||Best Actress||The Scarlet Letter||Nominated|
|MBC Drama Awards||Best Couple Award with Lee Seo-jin||Phoenix||Won|
|Top Excellence Award, Actress||Won|
|2005||41st Baeksang Arts Awards||Best Actress (Film)||The Scarlet Letter||Nominated|
|42nd Grand Bell Awards||Best Actress||The Scarlet Letter||Nominated|
|Korea Broadcasting Awards||Person of the Year in Broadcasting
(TV Actress category)
|8th Director's Cut Awards||Special Acting Award||N/A||Won|
- "Korean movie actress found dead". 24 February 2005 – via bbc.co.uk.
- "Top Actress's Suicide Shocks Nation". The Chosun Ilbo. 2 February 2005.
- Lee, Yong-sung (22 February 2005). "Actress Lee Eun-joo Commits Suicide". The Korea Times.
- Paquet, Darcy. "Actors and Actresses of Korean Cinema: Lee Eun-ju". Koreanfilm.org. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News from Korea - Taegukgi Premiers in Japan". English.chosun.com. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
- Khang Hyun-sung in Seoul (2014-03-31). "Remorseful actress commits suicide over sexy film role | South China Morning Post". Scmp.com. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
- "Family blames star's suicide on nude scenes". The Sydney Morning Herald. 23 February 2005.
- "The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News from Korea - Grief, Speculation Greet Mysterious Lee Eun-ju Suicide". English.chosun.com. 2005-02-24. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
- "Entertainment World Says Goodbye to Lee Eun-ju". The Chosun Ilbo. 24 February 2005.
- "[YEAR-END REVIEW]Shocks, embarrassments, disappointments-프린트화면". Koreaherald.com. 2010-04-06. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
- "Mental Health System Fails Korean Actress - OhmyNews International".
- Paquet, Darcy (2005-02-22). "Korean film industry mourns Lee Eun-ju | News | Screen". Screendaily.com. Retrieved 2014-04-24.