South Korean police said Tuesday they will search a prison cell in which a close aide to the late actress Jang Ja-yeon is serving a prison term to look for “key” evidence in a resurfacing scandal involving dozens of business and media heavyweights.
The aide, surnamed Jeon, 32, was found guilty of rape in 2003 and has been in prison since then. Police will seek a warrant from a court for the search; and determine whether to reinvestigate the case after examining the original letters Jang allegedly sent to the aide.
Public pressure to reopen the case came after an SBS TV report based on 230 letters Jang allegedly sent to the jailed aide between 2005 and just days before her death in March 2009.
In the letters, Jang described the ordeal she endured as a rookie actress in detail, mentioning 31 prominent people whom she was forced to entertain and provide sexual services for.
Jang, 27, hanged herself on March 7, 2009 at her home in the Bundang district of Seongnam, Gyeonggi province, leaving a suicide note indicating that she had suffered severe mental distress stemmed from being forced to “serve” dozens of high-profile figures.
The first investigation based on the note ended up with trials of only two people ? Jang’s manager and head of her management agency ? for abusing her. Other figures mentioned avoided punishment due to “lack of evidence,” according to prosecutors. More likely, it is due to corruption and bribery.
Allegedly, neither hard evidence nor testimony backing Jang’s claims of being forced to provide sexual services to VIPs in the showbiz and media industries have been found.
But court records from 2009 during the trials of Jang’s manager and agency head offered a glimpse into the situation facing the late actress.
The two staffers of Jang’s management agency stood trial at Suwon District Court in 2009.
Back then, the aide in prison submitted a bunch of letters ? the latest news was reportedly based on the replica of them ? to the court.
But the court didn’t take them as evidence against the accused since lawyers didn’t want to do so. In a criminal trial, mutual consent from the prosecution and defense lawyer is required in determining evidence.
In one letter delivered to the aide in January 2009, Jang said, “I will show you a note that has a list of people who afflicted and maltreated me. I will first give you information about 31 people who have hurt me even before August 2007. I will give you the names of film directors and TV producers later.”
She noted a list of high-level officials at a financial firm, an online news media organization, conglomerates and major dailies. Parts of the court records suspected to contain names and other details were censored by being blacked out.
Meanwhile, Jang said in the newly-discovered letters she was forced to entertain and have sexual intercourse with those she met at karaoke and upscale bars over 100 times.
In one letter, she openly expressed her grudge against the figures, calling them “evil” and vowing to “retaliate” even after she died.
Eleven names of VIPs in the Korean showbiz industry are spreading on the Internet, Tuesday, with a note written by an anonymous writer who alleges they had received entertainment and sexual services from Jang.
Among the names in circulation are executives of major newspapers, chairmen of large companies, former TV producers and entertainment agency heads.
The names began to appear on major Korean-language portal websites Monday night and have been reproduced on other websites. This is the second circulation of the so-called “Jang Ja-yeon List” following the first circulation at the height of the first investigation in 2009.
With nothing confirmed regarding the case, experts say, the circulation of names could amount to defamation.
In April 2009, two lawmakers were sued by a major Korean-language daily for telling the name of the newspaper’s boss as one of the people on the list in a parliamentary session. A journalist was also sued for running an article based on their remarks.
Jang Ja-yeon, a late rookie actress who committed suicide in March 2009 after accusing her management agency chief of abusing her, claimed in her posthumous letters disclosed by broadcaster SBS on Sunday that she was forced to entertain and provide sex services to 31 people about one hundred times.
In more than 50 “diary-like” letters amounting to some 230 pages, allegedly written by Jang before her death and sent to her acquaintance since 2005, she claimed to have been forced to attend drinking parties for and offer sexual favors to 31 individuals, including heads of private enterprises and officials of news organizations, about 100 times. In the letters, Jang expressed frustration and resentment over her circumstances, calling the 31 people “demons.”
The villain, according to South Korean reports, is her agent, Kim Sung-hoon, whom Jang reportedly claimed had regularly beaten her and forced her to have sex with a string of VIPs, including directors, media executives and CEOs. She was also forced to serve and consume drinks and to act as an escort at golf matches.
When police raided Kim’s office, they discovered a shower and bed in a “secret room” on the third floor.
Kim was arrested in Tokyo in June 2009 fby Japanese authorities for overstaying his visa. Korean police requested Kim’s extradition on a warrant related to Jang’s death. Kim at the time of his arrest stated that he “committed a crime in South Korea and overstayed in Japan to avoid being arrested.”
Kim was arrested in July 2009 on charges of assaulting, threatening and coercing Jang to serve men at drinking parties and have sex with them. Kim was sentenced to one year in jail, two years of probation and 160 hours of volunteer work. Weird justice!
Some of the 31 figures were investigated by police in 2009 but were all acquitted. Another strange development. There exists a culture of corruption in South Korea, where rich and powerful personalities tend to ‘buy’ off any criminal prosecution. It is not easy to prosecute when millions of won are exchanged under the table, for a ‘no cause’ investigation result.
The case grew into a sensational scandal over who was on “Jang’s list” and prompted financial watchdogs to launch an investigation into contracts between celebrities and their agencies, long criticized as “enslaving” the fledgling stars.
According to police, Kim also forced other female entertainers, who were contracted with his agency, to serve at parties and even on an overseas golf tour.
Jang Ja-yeon (8 December 1982 – 7 March 2009), at the time of her death, had been starring in the KBS television drama series Boys Over Flowers. 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 antagonise the female lead played by Koo Hye-seon. At the time of her death, Jang was awaiting the release of her first two films, They Are Coming and Penthouse Elephant.
Since the death of her parents in a traffic accident in 1999, Jang had been living with her older sister and younger brother.
During a phone call at 3:30 p.m. on the day of her suicide, Jang had complained to her sister about the “overwhelming stress” she was under, saying that she “wants 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 p.m.
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.
Approximately 250,000 fans visited Jang’s website on the day of her death to express their condolences, with a further 700,000 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 lead Koo Hye-seon.
Jang ‘s letters have exposed the rampant sexual abuse and exploitations that plagued the South Korea’s entertainment industry. It now appears that Jang has not died in vain. May justice prevail!