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‘Parasite’ actor Lee Sun-kyun dies at 48

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

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

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 the Seongbuk police station, which is investigating his death. After Mr Lee’s manager reported him missing earlier in the day, police found his body using his phone’s tracking signal. Mr Jeon said Mr Lee also left what appeared to be a suicide note.

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

Mr. Lee, born in Seoul in 1975, studied acting at the Korea National University of the Arts and made his first professional appearance in a music video in 1999. 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 a leading role in the romantic comedy series “Pasta” in 2010, the thriller “Helpless” in 2012, and the psychological drama 2018 “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 film takes place. This film won four awards at the Academy Awards in 2020, including Best Picture, becoming the first non-English film to win this 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 science fiction thriller “Dr. Brain.”

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

“I ask that the police make a good judgment as to which side is credible between me and the blackmailers,” he told reporters this week after a 19-hour interrogation.

South Korea’s entertainment industry has recently been rocked by drug scandals amid a nationwide anti-drug campaign. In March, police 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 to 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.

Authorities have recently stepped up checks, warning that the problem is getting worse. Drug arrests have increased since President Yoon Suk Yeol declared a “war on drugs.” More than 17,000 people have been arrested on drug charges nationwide this year, an increase from around 10,400 in 2019, according to the National Police Agency.

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

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