"Parasite" actor Lee Sun-kyun found dead in South Korea, officials say

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Lee Sun-kyun, a popular South Korean actor best known for his role in the Oscar-winning movie “Parasite,” was found dead in a car in Seoul on Wednesday, authorities said, after weeks of an intense police investigation into his alleged drug use. The car was in a park, the Reuters news agency reported.

Police and emergency officers initially found Lee in what they believed was an unconscious state in the car. Emergency officers later confirmed he was dead, according to Seoul’s Seongbuk police station.

Police had been searching for Lee, 48, after receiving a report that he was missing, Seongbuk police said.

They refused to provide further details including whether they had determined Lee killed himself. But South Korean media outlets including the Yonhap news agency said Lee’s family earlier Wednesday reported to police that he left home after writing a message similar to a suicide note.

The talent agency that represented Lee, HODU&U Entertainment, didn’t respond to calls from Reuters but Reuters says domestic media were pointing to an HODU&U statement expressing sadness over his death and urging restraint regarding false information, speculation, or malicious reports.

Lee’s body was later transported to a nearby Seoul hospital, according to Seongbuk police.

Actor Lee Sun Kyun attends the red carpet of the “Killing Romance” Midwest Premiere at AMC New City 14 on October 07, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.

Barry Brecheisenn / Getty Images

Lee had undergone police probes into allegations that he used illegal drugs at the residence of a bar hostess. The investigation prompted extensive tabloid coverage. Lee insisted he was tricked into taking the drugs and that he did not know what he was taking, according to Yonhap.

Reuters says he was questioned by police three times about the drug accusations, with one session running 19 hours over the weekend.

The scandal led to the loss of a number of acting projects, Agence France-Presse reported. According to Reuters, a first-time conviction on drug use charges in South Korea can lead to six months in jail and up to 14 years for repeat offenders. South Korea’s laws are so stringent that Koreans who take drugs legally while abroad can still face prosecution upon returning home, according to AFP.

Lee appeared in “Parasite,” which won Oscars for best picture and three other categories in 2020. The class satire was the first non-English-language film to win best picture in the then-92-year history of the Academy Awards, and was the first South Korean movie ever to win an Oscar. In the film, Lee played the head of a wealthy family.

In 2021, he won a Screen Actors Guild award for “cast in a motion picture” for his role in the same film. He was nominated for best actor at the International Emmy Awards for his performance in the sci-fi thriller “Dr. Brain” last year, as well.

Even before “Parasite,” Lee had been a popular actor in South Korea for a long time. He rose to stardom for his role in a hit TV drama series, “Coffee Prince (2007),” and gained mainstream popularity with the medical drama “Behind The White Tower (2007),” “Pasta (2010)” and “My Mister (2018).”

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Movies, Seoul, Entertainment

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