Celebrity Death, Media Events and Civil Religiosity: An Interpretive Media Sociology of the Suicide of Choi Jin-sil

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This article presents a theoretical media-sociology of celebrity death as a “media event.” Using Dayan and Katz’s famed concept as a point of entry, it examines a particular media event, the suicide of South Korean actress Choi Jin-sil (1968-2008), once dubbed “the nation’s actress,” through the lens of not only of “media events” but also celebrity studies and the sociology of religion. It does so with emphasis placed on the particular significance of suicide as well as the characteristics of celebrity and fandom in South Korean culture. It also discusses the place of death in the current technologically mediated culture, where death is no longer “sequestered” but more present than ever. Treating celebrity death as a primary example of “mediated death,” it explicates key conceptual insights from celebrity studies that bear on the analysis of Choi’s suicide, in particular the concept of “para-sociality.” The article concludes by interpreting Choi’s suicide as a media event that “heroizes” Choi as a symbol of the nation, reinforcing a “civil religiosity.”
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-26
JournalAsian Communication Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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