‘Parasite’ Actor Lee Sun-kyun Found Dead at 48


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Lee Sun-kyun, the award-winning South Korean actor who rose to international fame after starring in the Oscar-winning film “Parasite,” was found dead in Seoul on Wednesday. He was 48.

Mr. Lee had recently been under police investigation on suspicion of illegal drug use, and he denied the accusations. The police said they were investigating the death as a suicide.

The police found Mr. Lee’s body in a parked vehicle in central Seoul just before 11 a.m., said Jeon Yu-deung, the chief detective at Seongbuk police station, which is investigating his death. After Mr. Lee’s manager reported him missing earlier in the day, the police found his body using the location signal from his phone. Mr. Jeon said that Mr. Lee had also left what appeared to be a suicide note.

Mr. Lee is survived by his wife, two sons and siblings, Mr. Jeon added. His talent agency, Hodu&U Entertainment, said in a statement that a funeral would be held privately and attended by his family and colleagues.

Mr. Lee, who was born in Seoul in 1975, studied acting at the Korea National University of Arts and made his first professional appearance in a 1999 music video. He became a familiar face on Korean television when he starred in the dramas “Coffee Prince” and “Behind the White Tower” in 2007. He also played lead roles in the 2010 romantic comedy series “Pasta,” the 2012 thriller “Helpless” and the 2018 psychological drama “My Mister.”

Mr. Lee received worldwide recognition for his performance in “Parasite,” a 2019 thriller in which he played the head of a wealthy family in whose house much of the movie takes place. That film won four awards at the Academy Awards in 2020, including for best picture, becoming the first non-English movie to win the award. He and his castmates won a Screen Actors Guild award for their roles.

In 2022, Mr. Lee was nominated for best actor at the international Emmy awards for his role in the sci-fi thriller “Dr. Brain.”

Mr. Lee had been repeatedly questioned by the police in Incheon, a city west of Seoul, since October on suspicion of taking illicit drugs. He denied the accusations in several public statements and said he was the target of a blackmail effort.

“I ask that the police make a good judgment about whose side’s statements are credible between me and the blackmailers,” he told reporters this week following a 19-hour interrogation.

South Korea’s entertainment industry has recently been shaken by drug abuse scandals amid a nationwide antidrug campaign. The police in March raided the home of Yoo Ah-in, famous for his role in the 2021 Netflix series “Hellbound,” after he tested positive for propofol, marijuana, ketamine and cocaine.

South Korea has a strict approach toward drugs. Convicted offenders face six months to 14 years in prison. Citizens can be prosecuted for using illicit drugs even if they do so abroad.

The authorities have recently ramped up enforcement, warning that the problem is growing. Drug arrests have surged since President Yoon Suk Yeol declared a “war on drugs.” More than 17,000 people were arrested on drug charges nationwide this year, an increase from about 10,400 in 2019, according to the National Police Agency.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources. Go here for resources outside the United States.

‘Parasite’ Actor Lee Sun-kyun Found Dead at 48

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