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Lee Sun-kyun, star of Oscar-winning Parasite, dies


The South Korean actor Lee Sun-kyun, best known for his role in the Oscar-winning film Parasite, was found dead on Wednesday, police have said. He was 48.

The actor was found inside a vehicle parked on the street in Seoul’s mid-northern Seongbuk district, an official from the Seongbuk police station told AFP.

“We believe his body has now been transferred to the Seoul National University Hospital,” he added.

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

Lee had been under police investigation over his alleged use of marijuana and other drugs.

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

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.

Lee received widespread critical acclaim for his performance in the 2018 TV drama series My Mister, for his portrayal of a diligent architectural engineer who, despite facing personal turmoil, steadfastly upheld his sense of responsibility as both an adult and a professional.

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.

He was also recognised for his performances in romantic stories, such as the 2007 TV drama Coffee Prince and the 2012 film All About My Wife.

His last film, the 2023 horror Sleep – in which he played a husband whose sleepwalking eventually leads to terrifying circumstances – was well-received and featured in the Critics’ Week section at the Cannes festival.

Devastated fans expressed their grief on social media, with one user writing on X: “I laughed and cried a lot while watching your acting. Thank you.”

Renowned Korean-American writer Min Jin Lee joined others in expressing their condolences.

“Lee was praiseworthy in Parasite and exceptional in My Mister,” she wrote on Instagram.

“May he be remembered for his excellent work and creative gifts.”

Lee’s reputation suffered a significant blow when South Korean authorities launched an investigation into his alleged drug use in October.

He had been suspected of using illicit drugs at the residence of a hostess employed at a high-end bar in Seoul’s glamorous Gangnam district.

According to Yonhap, the actor alleged that he was “tricked” by the hostess into consuming the drugs and was unaware of their illegal nature.

From 23 to 24 December, he attended his third police investigation session, which lasted 19 hours, Yonhap reported.

He briefly spoke to reporters in late October before entering a police station in Incheon to meet investigators.

“I sincerely apologise for causing great disappointment to many people by being involved in such an unpleasant incident,” he said at the time.

“I feel sorry for my family, which is enduring such difficult pain at this moment.

“Once again, I sincerely apologise to everyone.”

South Korea has extremely tough laws on illegal drugs, with Koreans who take drugs such as marijuana legally abroad risking prosecution upon returning to their home country.

Lee is survived by his wife, the actress Jeon Hye-jin, and two sons.

If you have been affected by issues raised in this story, please visit: www.rte.ie/helplines.

Source: AFP


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