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Former agent demands thorough probe into death of actress

All Headlines 17:16 March 18, 2009

By Shin Hae-in

SEOUL, March 18 (Yonhap) -- A former agent of the late actress Jang Ja-yeon on Wednesday called for a thorough investigation into the causes for Jang's suicide, saying a letter left behind by her would offer clues to those responsible for her death, as well as to his innocence.

Yoo Jang-ho, who once worked as Jang's agent, argued in a news conference that the letter written by Jang prior to her suicide contained the truth on the circumstances leading to her death.

He refused to speculate how the letter was leaked to local media, but defended himself against growing public suspicion about his role in Jang's suicide.

Jang, 30, hanged herself at her house in Bundang south of Seoul on March 7, in a move that shocked the nation as the young starlet had just begun to win popularity from her supporting role in a popular KBS TV series.

The case took an unexpected turn last week as the contents of a lengthy letter Jang wrote to her manager Yoo was made public by a local broadcaster. In the letter, Jang said another former agent, known only by his family name Kim, had forced her to provide sexual favors to high-powered entertainment figures and journalists.

Calling herself a "powerless young actress," Jang also said she was constantly battered and barely earned any profit with her former agent "taking care" of all her finances. The letter was proven authentic by experts late Tuesday.

Yoo denied the suspicions he forced Jang to write the letter in front of him and purposely leaked it to media to win a legal battle with the entertainment firm led by Kim over profit Jang has made.

"God knows I never forced Ja-yeon to do anything. The letter was burnt after it was written and I have no idea how the broadcaster got a hold of it," he said. "I have never been in a legal battle with anyone living in the Republic of Korea."

"Ja-yeon is a brave victim who died while fighting against something wrong," Yoo went on. "I hope her death will not be meaningless and the case is thoroughly investigated and revealed."

Police said they will soon summon the 10 people listed in Jang's letter, including Kim, for questioning, adding they will be punished if the contents turn out to be true. Bundang police are currently looking into Jang's e-mails and phone call records as well.

The probe into Jang's letter is snowballing into a massive social scandal as it is not the first time suspicions over the abuse of female actresses have been raised in the local entertainment industry.

In January, cloning of top actress Jeon Ji-hyeon's mobile phone by her agent triggered renewed debate on the boundaries between an entertainer's right to privacy and commercial interests.

And in recent years, the reputations of several female celebrities have been tarnished after videos of them having sex appeared on the Internet, downloaded by millions. Agents and managers often pressure actresses to have sex with them while being videotaped, using it as blackmail to prevent the starlets from skipping to bigger firms that offer more money after they earn fame.


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