Korean tourist drank herself to death in S’pore KTV lounge
Coroner's inquiry into death of South Korean woman at KTV lounge in May reveals she had liver condition
She had a liver condition and was a poor drinker.
Yet, she took part in a drinking game that netted her $50 for each shot of cognac she downed.
It may have seemed like an easy way to earn a quick buck, but in the end, it cost her her life.
After drinking 10 to 12 shots, Ms Kim Seoa, a tourist from South Korea, passed out at the KTV lounge.
Her friends realised later that her lips were purple and she was not breathing.
She was taken to Singapore General Hospital (SGH), where she died a day later, on May 13, from alcohol intoxication leading to respiratory depression.
Ms Kim's blood alcohol level was found to be four times the legal limit of 80mg per 100ml if she had been driving.
These details emerged at a coroner's inquiry on Friday (Nov 6) into her death.
The inquiry heard that Ms Kim, 27, a model in South Korea, arrived in Singapore on a social visit pass in April.
She stayed with her friend, Ms Son Hyo Jeong, a public relations officer, in Prestige KTV lounge at Merchant Road, near Clarke Quay.
The two friends made plans to go out on May 11, but as Ms Son had to work, she invited Ms Kim to join her at the KTV lounge instead, police investigation officer, Assistant Police Superintendent (ASP) Fiona Lim, told the inquiry.
At 11.10pm, they entered a private room where a birthday celebration for a guest, Mr Low Kok Hoong, was going on.
They sat with two other Korean women at the far end of a long sofa in the room, ASP Lim said.
The birthday party had ordered two three-litre bottles and nine 700ml bottles of cognac as well as two bottles of champagne, ASP Lim added.
Mr Low, a vice-president in Resorts World Sentosa, told the inquiry that most of the 20 people in the room were his colleagues and friends. (See report at above right.)
ASP Lim said that shortly past midnight, Mr Low's friend, Mr Billy Kon, decided to start a drinking game as he felt the atmosphere in the room was "not high enough".
He took out a stack of $50 notes, amounting to about $7,000, and placed them on a table in the middle of the room.
He then offered $50 for every shot of liquor consumed by the women in the room.
The drinking game excited the women, including Ms Kim and her friends, and the situation in the room soon became chaotic as the women started drinking, ASP Lim said.
Before the game started, Ms Kim had drunk a few glasses of liquor, but was still sober, said ASP Lim.
Witnesses saw Ms Kim pouring five to six shots of cognac into a balloon glass before gulping down the liquor.
She then paused to take a sip of water and some green tea before downing another five to six shots of cognac in one gulp.
She was also seen happily collecting her cash rewards, which would have been at least $500.
Soon after the game started, the number of people in the room doubled to about 40, making it hard for Ms Son, who had to mingle with other guests as part of her work, to keep an eye on Ms Kim.
Many other women who took part in the game got drunk and went to the toilet to throw up, ASP Lim added.
At one point, Ms Kim was seen sitting on the sofa with her head tilted back, she said.
When an unknown male guest asked if she was okay, Ms Kim smiled and gestured that she was.
But 10 minutes later, she was seen sprawled on the sofa, with vomit coming out of her mouth.
Her friends propped her up and cleaned her, but vomit continued to flow out from her mouth and nose.
After they lay her back down on the sofa, one of them noticed that Ms Kim's lips had turned purple and she had stopped breathing.
An operations manager at the lounge performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on Ms Kim, only for her to throw up again.
Paramedics arrived soon after and Ms Kim was taken to SGH, where she was placed in an intensive care unit. By then, she had become unresponsive, ASP Lim said.
She said that Ms Kim suffered brain damage as she had respiratory problems due to the amount of alcohol in her body.
Ms Kim died at 4.15pm on May 13.
The investigation report revealed that her blood alcohol level was 310mg per 100ml.
State Coroner Marvin Bay noted that this was about four times the legal limit if Ms Kim had been driving.
ASP Lim said the amount of alcohol in Ms Kim's body was enough to cause severe respiratory problems and death.
She said the hospital found more than 20 pieces of $50 notes on Ms Kim when she was admitted.
ASP Lim also said Ms Kim had told her friends that she had a low tolerance for alcohol and had been taking medication for a liver condition.
Ms Kim had also said she would turn red soon after drinking just a bit of alcohol, ASP Lim said.
The police do not suspect foul play, though Ms Kim's family in South Korea expressed concerns that she could have been forced to drink the alcohol, ASP Lim told the inquiry.
Mr Bay will deliver his findings on Wednesday (Nov 11).
Birthday celebration turned tragic
TNP FILE PHOTO
It was supposed to be a joyous occasion, to celebrate his 41st birthday.
But Mr Low Kok Hoong found out that one of the women in his private KTV lounge room had to be taken to hospital after passing out from drinking too much alcohol on May 12.
She died from alcohol intoxication leading to cardio-respiratory failure.
Mr Low told the coroner's inquiry into Ms Kim Seoa's death that he had not met the Korean national before his birthday celebration.
Most of the original guests were his family and friends and the private room in Prestige KTV lounge had been booked by his friend, Mr Billy Kon.
Ms Kim, along with many others who joined and left the party, was not personally invited by him.
Mr Low also said that Mr Kon had started the drinking game, in which the women could earn $50 for each shot of liquor consumed.
Mr Kon had used his own money and personally distributed the $50 notes, he said.
Asked by State Coroner Marvin Bay why Mr Kon would give away $7,000, Mr Low said: "I suppose it was my birthday, so he used his own money."
Prestige KTV bar manager Ong Chye Heng, who also took the stand yesterday, told the inquiry that he noticed Ms Kim that night because she was very tall.
He added that she was very happy to have received the money after downing the first round of shots.
Mr Ong said that drinking games, usually involving dice or poker cards, were commonly played in his KTV lounge but that was the first time he had seen money given out for each shot consumed.