South Korean actor and Parasite star Lee Sun-kyun dies at 48 | Arts and Culture News

The actor had been under investigation for alleged illegal drug use. Seoul police point to apparent suicide.

South Korean actor Lee Sun-kyun, best known for his role in the Oscar-winning film Parasite, has been found dead, police said.

Lee, 48, died by apparent suicide in a Seoul park on Wednesday, according to officials in the capital.

The actor had been under police investigation over his alleged drug use. Infringements of South Korea’s tough drug laws can lead to six months in jail, or up to 14 years for repeat offenders and dealers.

Lee was found in a car at a park in central Seoul, police said.

“Less than 30 minutes earlier, his manager had called for help after the embattled actor left his home, leaving behind what appeared to be a suicide note,” said Al Jazeera’s Eunice Kim, reporting from Seoul.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported, citing police, that Lee had left a “note that reads like a will”.

“The top actor had been under intense pressure since October,” our correspondent said. “That’s when he faced allegations of drug use, including marijuana, which is a high crime here in South Korea. Over the weekend he underwent intense police questioning, some 19 hours.”

The actor had faced police questioning three times over accusations of illegal drug use amid a government crackdown.

Lee had said he was tricked into taking drugs that he believed were sleeping pills by a bar hostess trying to blackmail him, our correspondent said.

South Korea is under a wider crackdown on drug use after President Yoon Suk-yeol declared a war on drugs this year.

“Several celebrities have been called in for questioning in recent months,” Kim said. “South Korea does have some of the strictest rules when it comes to illegal substances, with prison time upwards of 14 years even if the drug use happened outside of the country.”

Our correspondent said messages of grief had been pouring in since news of Lee’s death was confirmed.

Once celebrated for his wholesome image, local news outlets reported that the actor was being dropped from television and commercial projects following the drug use scandal.

A graduate of South Korea’s prestigious Korea National University of Arts, Lee made his acting debut in 2001 in a television sitcom titled Lovers.

He later won acclaim for his performances in a variety of roles, including a charismatic chef and a genius neuroscientist who is incapable of empathy.

Globally, he is best known for his portrayal of the wealthy and shallow patriarch in director Bong Joon-ho’s 2019 Oscar-winning film, Parasite.

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