“Parasite” actor Lee Sun-kyun found dead at 48

Lee Sun-kyun, the award-winning South Korean actor who rose to 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 had denied the charges. Police said they were investigating the death as a suicide.

Police found Mr Lee’s body in a parked vehicle in central Seoul shortly before 11am, said Jeon Yu-deung, the chief detective of the Seongbuk police station, who is investigating his death. After Mr Lee’s manager reported him missing earlier in the day, police found his body using the location signal from his phone. Mr Jeon said Mr Lee had also left what appeared to be a suicide note.

Mr Lee leaves behind his wife, two children and brothers, Mr Jeon added. His talent agency, Hodu&U Entertainment, said in a statement that the funeral will 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 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 leading roles in the 2010 romantic comedy series “Pasta,” the 2012 thriller “Helpless” and the 2018 psychological drama “My Mister.”

Lee received global 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 is set. That film won four awards at the Academy Awards in 2020, including best picture, becoming the first non-English film to win the award. He and his castmates won a Screen Actors Guild Award for their roles.

In 2022, Lee was nominated for Best Actor at the International Emmy Awards for his role in the sci-fi thriller “Dr. “Brain.”

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

“I ask that the police make good judgment as to what part of the statements are 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 abuse scandals amid a nationwide anti-drug campaign. Police in March 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. Those convicted 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 enforcement, warning that the problem is growing. The drug arrests have emerged since President Yoon Suk Yeol declared a “war on drugs.” More than 17,000 people have been arrested on drug charges nationwide this year, up from about 10,400 in 2019, according to the National Police Agency.

If you are thinking about suicide, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources. Go Here for resources outside the United States.