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Police reopen actress Jang’s case

The Gyeonggi police agency said Wednesday that it had found letters thought to be written by the late actress Jang Ja-yeon.

The letters had been sent to Jang’s acquaintance, known as Jeon, who is currently serving a jail term.

The police inspected Jeon’s cell Wednesday morning and found 20 letters and five envelopes, believed to have been sent by the actress, and several newspaper articles.

“The letters, which Jeon claimed to have received from Jang, were written by hand,” said a police official.

The police will send the letters to the National Forensic Service to examine the handwriting. If the handwriting is confirmed to be Jang’s, the police will fully reopen the case of her suicide, which was closed in 2009.

In March 2009, Jang, who appeared in the TV drama series “Boys Over Flowers,” committed suicide and left a seven-page note claiming that she had been coerced into having sex with directors and media executives.

“I am a powerless actress. I want to get out of this agony,” she wrote in the note.

The police concluded the case to be a suicide caused by depression, but then reopened it and arrested Jang’s agent accusing him of forcing Jang to perform sexual favors. Jang’s manager was accused of defamation of those revealed on the so-called “Jang’s list” in July 2009.

On Sunday, broadcaster SBS disclosed 50 letters allegedly written by Jang, shedding light on what happened before her death. According to the letters, Jang had been forced to attend drinking parties and offer sexual favors to 31 people, including television producers, media executives and heads of private enterprises on about 100 occasions.

Jang expressed frustration and resentment over her circumstances, calling the 31 people “demons” in the letters.

The case grew into a scandal over the identities of the 31 individuals and on Tuesday a list of 11 public figures claimed to be among the 31 began to circulate online, especially on Twitter.

Though the case was wrapped up without identifying any of those listed, the revelation by SBS has prompted the police to reopen the case.

Meanwhile, the Chosun Ilbo claimed that its top executive mentioned in Jang’s letter is the former president of its sister paper Sports Chosun.

Jang’s death was seen as confirmation of decades-long rumors about the “prostitution ring” inside showbiz. The National Human Rights Commission last year conducted a survey of 351 women engaged in or hoping to enter into the domestic entertainment industry and found that 60.2 percent had been requested to engage in sexual relationships. About half of these said they faced disadvantages in casting once they turned down the demand.

By Lee Woo-young