Death of Lee Sun-kyun of ‘Parasite’ Highlights South Korea’s Drug Crackdown

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Lee Sun-kyun, the “Parasite” actor who was found dead on Wednesday, was far from the only celebrity entangled in South Korea’s latest antidrug crackdown.

Yoo Ah-in, the actor known for his roles in the 2018 film “Burning” and the 2021 Netflix series “Hellbound,” is facing trial after testing positive for propofol, marijuana, ketamine and cocaine, officials say. Several South Korean retailers have cut ties with the actor since the drug accusations became public. He is no longer listed as a cast member for the second season of “Hellbound.”

G-Dragon, the rapper and former member of the K-pop boy group BigBang, had been under investigation for possible drug use until the police dropped the case earlier this month after he tested negative on several drug tests. Nevertheless, BMW Korea removed images of him from its online advertisements.

The recent accusations against high-profile entertainers here have highlighted the continuation of a strict antidrug policy and attitudes in South Korea that have drawn a hard line against anything other than total abstinence from drug use.

Some officials hail that toughness as critical to keeping drug use under control. But the policies have also come under criticism from treatment experts who say that the authorities focus too much on punishment rather than rehabilitation.

“When you look at data and you look at the harsh penalties that have been in place for decades now, they haven’t worked,” said Gloria Lai, a regional director for the International Drug Policy Consortium, an organization that promotes evidence-based drug policies around the world. “And the cost on people’s lives is huge.”

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Death of Lee Sun-kyun of ‘Parasite’ Highlights South Korea’s Drug Crackdown

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