Death of South Korean model who downed 10 to 12 cognac shots a 'tragic misadventure'

State coroner Marvin Bay ruled the death of South Korean model Kim Seoa a "tragic misadventure".
State coroner Marvin Bay ruled the death of South Korean model Kim Seoa a "tragic misadventure".PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Enticed by the offer of $50 for every shot of liquor she would drink, a 27-year-old South Korean model downed some 10 to 12 shots of cognac in two quick gulps at a stranger's birthday party in a KTV.

Ms Kim Seoa, who was on holiday in Singapore, later collapsed in the early hours of May 12 from consuming the massive amount of alcohol in a drinking game. She died a day later in hospital from acute alcohol intoxication leading to respiratory depression.

Calling it a "tragic misadventure", State Coroner Marvin Bay said on Wednesday that Ms Kim's death provided "a cautionary note on the dangers of binge drinking in the course of a drinking game".

"There is a considerable body of research that drinking games stealthily deliver large quantities of alcohol into the drinker's body. The competitive element of a drinking game may further impair a person's judgment and lead to an inability to gauge the amount of alcohol taken and the possible implications," he said.

The model, who had a low tolerance for alcohol and did not usually drink, was found to have 310mg of alcohol per 100ml of her blood - a deadly amount almost four times the legal limit for drink driving.

She had arrived in Singapore in April and was staying with a friend, Ms Son Hyo Jeong, a public relations officer at the Prestige KTV lounge in Merchant Road, near Clarke Quay.

The two friends had 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.

At about 11.10pm, they entered a private room where a birthday celebration for a guest, Mr Low Kok Hoong, was going on.

Shortly after 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", according to the investigation report.

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.

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.

At about 12.30am, a friend noticed that Ms Kim's lips had turned purple. She was unresponsive, leaning back against a sofa with her eyes closed, with vomit seeping from her mouth and nose.

Ruling out foul play, State Coroner Bay said that Ms Kim consumed the alcohol voluntarily "in the heat of the moment" and her unusual pattern of consumption was likely influenced by the setting, mood and pace of the drinking game.

Witnesses also attested to the "air of unrestrained merriment" among the 15 to 20 party guests presents, with many chatting and laughing loudly.

Some 20 $50 notes were later found among Ms Kim's possession, which the state coroner said gave a rough indication of the extent of her consumption within the short period of time.