Lee Eun-ju

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Lee Eun-ju
Lee in 2004
Born(1980-12-22)December 22, 1980
Gunsan, South Korea
DiedFebruary 22, 2005(2005-02-22) (aged 24)
Bundang, Seongnam, South Korea
Cause of deathSuicide by hanging
Resting placeGoyang, South Korea
Other namesLee Eun-joo
Years active1997–2005
AgentNamoo Actors (2005)
Korean name
Revised RomanizationI Eun-ju
McCune–ReischauerRi Ŭnju

Lee Eun-ju (December 22, 1980 – February 22, 2005) was a South Korean actress. She was the star of hit films including Taegukgi and The Scarlet Letter. She died by suicide at age 24.[1]

Life and career[edit]

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.[2] 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.[3]

Her first lead role came as the title character in Hong Sang-soo's Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (2000).[4]

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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[4][6]

"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][4]

Death and subsequent tributes[edit]

On the night of February 22, 2005, only a few days after her graduation from Dankook University, Lee died by suicide at her apartment in Bundang, Seongnam, after slitting her wrists and hanging herself. She was 24 years old. 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, but it could also be traced from Bungee Jumping of Their Own, where all her characters since then have died, so she was too invested in her characters.[clarification needed]

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."[2][7][8]

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.[9][10][11][12]

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.



Year English Title Hangul Romanization Role Notes
1999 Rainbow Trout 송어 Song-eo Se-hwa
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

Television series[edit]

Year English Title Hangul Romanization Role Notes
1997 Start 스타트 Jeong Nam-young
1998 납량특선 8부작 Park Seong-ju Appeared in episode 어느날 갑자기.
White Nights 3.98 백야 3.98 Baekya 3.98 young Anastasia
1999 KAIST 카이스트 Kaiseuteu Gu Ji-won
2000 Look Back in Anger 성난 얼굴로 돌아보라 Seongnan Eolgulro Dorabora Jeong Su-jin
2004 Phoenix 불새 Bulsae Lee Ji-eun

Music video[edit]

Year Song Title Hangul Artist
1998 "Even After 10 Years" 십년이 지나도 Park Jin-young
1999 "Sad Gift" 슬픈 선물 Kim Jang-hoon
2000 "Desire" 소망 Joo Young-hoon
"Late Regrets" 늦은 후회 BoBo
2004 "I Was Thankful..." 고마웠다고... Tim


Year Title Hangul Notes
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 from The Scarlet Letter OST
2007 Lee Eun-ju: Only One 이은주 Only One Lee Eun-joo tribute album

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1996 Sunkyung Smart Student Uniform Model Contest Silver Award 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 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 Nominated
Korea Broadcasting Awards Person of the Year in Broadcasting
(TV Actress category)
Phoenix Nominated
8th Director's Cut Awards Special Acting Award Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Korean movie actress found dead". 24 February 2005 – via bbc.co.uk.
  2. ^ a b "Top Actress's Suicide Shocks Nation". The Chosun Ilbo. 2 February 2005.
  3. ^ Lee, Yong-sung (22 February 2005). "Actress Lee Eun-joo Commits Suicide". The Korea Times.
  4. ^ a b c d Paquet, Darcy. "Actors and Actresses of Korean Cinema: Lee Eun-ju". Koreanfilm.org. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  5. ^ "The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News from Korea - Taegukgi Premiers in Japan". The Chosun Ilbo. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Family blames star's suicide on nude scenes". The Sydney Morning Herald. 23 February 2005.
  8. ^ "The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News from Korea - Grief, Speculation Greet Mysterious Lee Eun-ju Suicide". The Chosun Ilbo. 2005-02-24. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
  9. ^ "Entertainment World Says Goodbye to Lee Eun-ju". The Chosun Ilbo. 24 February 2005.
  10. ^ "[YEAR-END REVIEW]Shocks, embarrassments, disappointments-프린트화면". The Korea Herald. 2010-04-06. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
  11. ^ "Mental Health System Fails Korean Actress - OhmyNews International".
  12. ^ Paquet, Darcy (2005-02-22). "Korean film industry mourns Lee Eun-ju | News | Screen". Screendaily.com. Retrieved 2014-04-24.

External links[edit]