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Tragic End: Lee Sun-kyun, South Korean Star of Oscar Winning Movie ‘Parasite’, Found Dead at 48

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A popular South Korean actor Lee Sun-kyun, renowned for his role in the Academy Award-winning film “Parasite,” was found dead in Seoul on Wednesday, December 27, 2023.

Lee, 48, was discovered in a car in a northern Seoul neighborhood, following an intense police investigation linked to alleged drug use.

Authorities reported that emergency officers initially found Lee unconscious in the parked car. Efforts to revive him were futile, as he was later pronounced dead at the scene, confirmed by Seoul’s Seongbuk police station.

The circumstances surrounding his death remain under investigation, with police refraining from commenting on the possibility of suicide.

However, South Korean media, including Yonhap news agency, reported that Lee’s family had informed the police of a note resembling a suicide message left by him earlier that day.

Lee’s storied career included a pivotal role in “Parasite,” the groundbreaking 2020 Oscar winner for Best Picture, which made history as the first non-English-language film to achieve this honour.

His portrayal of the patriarch of a wealthy family garnered critical acclaim. Alongside the “Parasite” cast, Lee received the Screen Actors Guild award for the best motion picture ensemble in 2020. His talent was further recognized with a nomination for best actor at the International Emmy Awards for his role in “Dr. Brain.”

Before his international acclaim, Lee was a beloved figure in South Korea’s entertainment industry. He gained fame from the hit TV drama “Coffee Prince (2007)” and continued to captivate audiences in “Behind The White Tower (2007),” “Pasta (2010),” and “My Mister (2018).”

The actor’s recent life was marred by controversy, following allegations of illegal drug use. Lee maintained his innocence, claiming he was unwittingly given drugs.

The scandal sparked widespread media coverage and rampant online speculation about his personal life, leading him to file a lawsuit against two individuals, including a bar hostess, for alleged blackmail.

Lee’s last public appearance, characterised by his remorseful demeanour and apologies to fans and family, underscored the personal toll of the allegations.

In the wake of his death, the Incheon police have declared the termination of their investigation into Lee’s alleged drug use, while continuing to pursue the cases against the individuals he had sued.

South Korea, known for its stringent anti-drug laws, has witnessed a rise in drug-related offenses.

The National Police Agency reported a record number of detentions for drug offenses this year. The country also grapples with a high suicide rate, particularly among celebrities, often attributed to intense public scrutiny and cyberbullying.

Professor Kang Youn-gon of Chung-Ang University in Seoul highlighted the invasive media reporting on Lee’s personal life, criticizing the lack of verification of the allegations against him.

This intense media attention, often seen in celebrity cases in South Korea, raises concerns about the impact of public and media scrutiny on individuals’ mental health.

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

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