Actor Lee Sun-kyun found dead amid investigation into drug use allegations

Bomi Yoon

Actor Lee Sun-kyun / Courtesy of Megabox

Actor Lee Sun-kyun / Courtesy of Megabox

By Lee Gyu-lee

Actor Lee Sun-kyun, who garnered global fame through the Cannes award-winning film “Parasite,” was found dead, Wednesday, in an apparent suicide amid an ongoing investigation into drug use allegations. He was 48.

According to the police, the actor’s manager reported to the police on Wednesday at around 10:12 a.m. that Lee left his home after leaving a suicide note a day before and had not returned.

With signs of an attempted suicide, police found him in his car near a park in Jongno District in central Seoul at around 10:30 a.m.

“He was confirmed dead at the scene and was not transferred to a hospital for treatment,” a fire department official told local media outlets. Lee’s body was taken to Seoul National University Hospital.

The actor’s agency, HODU&U Entertainment, confirmed his death, saying “There is no way to express this profound and dismal feeling of sorrow.”

Asking to refrain from spreading any false information, the agency informed that his funeral will be held behind closed doors with his family and friends.

“We earnestly ask to avoid spreading false information based on baseless speculations or assumptions, as well as malicious reports, so that the deceased’s last moments would not be unfairly tarnished,” it said in the release.

“His funeral will be held quietly with the presence of family and colleagues. We express our deep condolences as the deceased embarks on his final journey.”

Police rejected late actor Lee's request for low-key appearance for questioning

Lee had been the subject of an investigation into alleged illegal drug use, which surfaced in October.

Police officers gather at the scene of actor Lee Sun-kyun's car found near a park in Jongno District, central Seoul, Wednesday. Yonhap

Police officers gather at the scene of actor Lee Sun-kyun’s car found near a park in Jongno District, central Seoul, Wednesday. Yonhap

The police announced on Oct. 19 that eight people had been suspected of illegal drug use on several occasions at a bar and a home in Seoul over the period of a year.

Lee was identified as one of the suspects and was summoned for questioning about a week later. He denied allegations that he used marijuana and other illegal drugs with a hostess at a high-end bar in Gangnam District of southern Seoul and her home.

“I sincerely apologize for causing a huge disappointment to many people by getting involved in such an unfortunate incident. I will respond to the investigation with a truthful attitude and sincerity,” he said as he headed to a police station for questioning at the time.

Lee tested negative for drugs in a cursory test during the first police questioning and also in another drug test conducted by the National Forensic Service last month.

The hostess had testified to the police that she gave Lee ketamine after he said he was curious about the drug and witnessed him snorting it with a straw.

Lee claimed that he was not aware that it was a drug and the hostess tricked him into taking it.

He filed a complaint with the police against the hostess and one other person for blackmailing him about his alleged drug use, saying they blackmailed him to hand over 350 million won ($270,000).

After a third round of questioning on Sunday, which continued for 19 hours, Lee requested a polygraph test to prove his innocence.

After debuting in the musical “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in 2001, Lee has played lead roles in various hit series, including the medical drama “Behind the White Tower” (2007), and the rom-com series “Pasta” (2010).

He rose to global fame after playing one of the lead characters in director Bong Joon-ho’s smash-hit film “Parasite,” which won him an Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture prize at the 26th Screen Actors Guild Award.

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