© 2024 KUAF
NPR Affiliate since 1985
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Your voice matters to KUAF! Your perspective will give us valuable insights into what we're doing and areas that may not address your needs. Please take a moment to complete this confidential listener survey to help us better serve you!

Actor Lee Sun-kyun of Oscar-winning film 'Parasite' is found dead in Seoul

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korean actor Lee Sun-kyun, who played a rich entrepreneur in the Oscar-winning film Parasite, was found dead on Wednesday. Police suspect he died by suicide.

Police found Lee unconscious in a parked car in central Seoul.

His manager had reported to the police earlier in the day that Lee and his car went missing and that he left an apparent suicide note at his home, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Police also found a charcoal briquette on the passenger seat, Yonhap reported, which suggests death by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Since October, Lee has been under a police investigation for suspected use of marijuana and other illegal drugs. Details of the probe and his private life attracted heavy media and public attention.

Under South Korea's strict drug laws, such charges can lead to a maximum five years in prison. Even in cases of lighter sentences, drug allegations can severely taint celebrities' reputation and keep them out of business for years.

Appearing for police questioning for the first time in late October, Lee apologized to his family and his fans for "causing concerns." He declined to answer whether he admits drug use.

His drug tests had returned negative, according to the Incheon Police Station, which is in charge of his case.

According to Yonhap, Lee has denied that he knowingly used drugs and argued he was deceived by a bar employee into using them.

He reportedly filed a criminal complaint against the bar employee and her accomplice for blackmailing him and defrauding him of about $270,000.

Lee, who was 48, was at the height of his career that spanned over two decades.

He made his debut in the early 2000s and quickly became a household name among South Koreans television watchers through hit dramas such as Behind the White Tower and Coffee Prince.

He continued to star in popular series, including My Mister in 2018 and Diary of a Prosecutor in 2019.

Lee also had a prolific career in film, often collaborating with acclaimed arthouse filmmaker Hong Sang-soo but also appearing in more commercially oriented films like All About My Wife.

But the most impactful work in his filmography was director Bong Joon-ho's Parasite.

The black comedy thriller about social inequality was not only a major box office success at home and abroad. It also made history by winning prestigious awards, such as the highest prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 and four Oscars in 2020, including Best Picture.

Lee, with his fellow stars, received Outstanding Performance by a Cast at the Screen Actors Guild Award.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.