Fest shocked by actress death

Apparent suicide follows financial dispute

SEOUL -- The apparent suicide of one of South Korea's most popular actresses cast a pall over the opening of the Pusan International Film Festival Thursday.

Choi Jin-shil, whose fame earned her the nickname "The Nation's Actress," is believed to have hanged herself in the bathroom of her Seoul home, said Yang Jae-ho, chief investigator at Seoul's Seocho Police Station.

"It's obviously suicide," Yang told reporters, citing a doctor's examination of Choi's body and testimony from family members and friends. He said an investigation was under way.

An autopsy was planned for later in the day.

No formal suicide note has been found, but Choi sent her makeup assistant cell phone text messages twice Wednesday night asking her to "take care of (my) children no matter what happens" and telling her that "I'm sorry," the investigator said.

Her death comes a month after the suicide of a fellow actor rumored to have owed her a large amount of money.

Choi's mother told police that the actress returned home drunk around midnight Wednesday, crying and denying the rumor, before going into the bathroom, Yang said.

Choi made her debut in the late 1980s and as a bright-eyed ingenue, quickly becoming one of South Korea's best-loved actresses. She starred in a number of box-office hits, including the films "My Love, My Bride" of 1990 and "How to Top My Wife" of 1994, and TV dramas such as "Jealousy," "My Rosy Life" and last year's "Bad Woman, Good Woman."