Choi Jin Shil was a popular South Korean actress. She committed suicide at the age of 39. Since her debut in 1988 till her death in 2008 she appeared in various soap operas, movies and commercials, becoming a household name. Her popularity was widely considered due to her friendly and approachable demeanour rather than the statuesque looks of her contemporaries.
Her fame started with a TV commercial, appearing as a newly wedded bride. Her cute and smart image in the commercial was an instant success. Her appearances in movies and TV soaps that followed, whether comical or sad, in most part were characters the audience could easily relate to. They were all successful, notably My Love My Bride (Na-ui sa-rang na-ui shin-bu, 1990), Jealousy (Jil-too, 1992), Promise (Yak-sok, 1992). With her growing popularity her poverty stricken teenage years also became known to the public. This added to her popularity as a success story of hard work coming to fruition. Her personal image along with the roles she played won her the title 'People's star'.
Her popularity stumbled twice during her career. In 1994, her manager Bae Byung Soo was stabbed to death by her driver. The second was her divorce to the baseball player Cho Sung Min in September 2004. Both times she made her way into the hearts of her fans by giving fervent performances in her roles. You and I (Gu-dae grigo na) in 1997 and My Rosy Life (Jang-mit-bit In-seng) in 2005. In her last TV drama Last Scandal (Nae seng-eh ma-ji-mak scan-dl, 2008) she played the character of a divorcee who wins the hearts of 2 handsome successful brothers and eventually marries one of them. The show was a huge success and a new word 'Joomarella', a combination of the words ajooma (middle aged woman) and Cinderella came to popular use to describe a divorcee who regains love and a happy life.
In late September 2008, one of her best friend's husband Ahn Jae Hwan, also an actor, committed suicide due to failing business and high volume of debt. Soon after, Choi was rumoured to have lent a large sum of money to Ahn which spread rapidly through online reports and blogs. This was a shock to Choi and is favoured as the key factor leading up to her suicide, although there have been other reports of Choi's suffering from depression since her divorce with Cho, her confidence as a single mom and the pressure of always being at the top of the stardom. The police reported the rumour to be false.
On the day of Choi's death, all 3 major TV stations spent a third of their news hour on covering the story. 4 days after her death, a representative at the National Assembly suggested a new law to prevent 'cyber-insulting' which for a short period had the nick name of 'Choi Jin Shil Law'.
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