Renowned South Korean actor Lee Sun-kyun, best known for his leading role in the Oscar-winning film “Parasite”, was found dead on December 27th 2023 in a car parked at a Seoul park. Lee’s death comes amid a police investigation into drug use allegations made against him just a day prior.
Lead Up to Lee’s Death
48-year-old Lee Sun-kyun has been a major figure in the Korean film and TV industry for over two decades. Some of his most acclaimed works include crime thriller “A Hard Day”, drama series “My Mister”, and most notably the 2019 Cannes Palme d’Or and Academy Award winning film “Parasite” directed by Bong Joon-ho.
Lee was at the peak of his career when the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency surprisingly summoned him on December 26th to appear for an investigation related to the use of propofol, a powerful anesthetic. Police stated that a female acquaintance of Lee’s had alleged he took propofol with her at his home in Seoul earlier in 2022.
Table: Timeline of events leading up to Lee Sun-kyun’s death
|December 26, 2023
|Lee Sun-kyun summoned by police to appear next day for questioning related to alleged propofol use
|December 27, morning
|Lee questioned by police for over 19 hours, denies allegations
|December 27, evening
|Lee found unconscious in parked car, declared dead shortly after
The questioning lasted over 19 hours through the morning of December 27th. Despite undergoing a lie detector test, Lee continued to firmly deny ever using or purchasing propofol illegally.
Later that same evening, Lee’s manager found him unconscious and not breathing in the actor’s car, which was parked at a location between his home and the police station. Emergency services were called but Lee was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.
Mystery Around Cause of Death
The exact cause behind Lee Sun-kyun’s sudden passing remains unclear. Police have only stated so far that no external injuries were found on Lee’s body. Speculation is swirling around whether the physically and mentally exhausting interrogation combined with pressure from the serious drug allegations could have led Lee to take his own life.
A handwritten note reported to be Lee’s final letter to his wife was revealed by local media on December 28th. The letter relayed Lee’s distress over the drug investigation and his determination to protect his family from harm. This seems to support the theory that Lee died by suicide due to immense stress, however no official ruling has been made yet.
There were also allegations from Lee’s acquaintance that she was blackmailed by the actor to keep their propofol use secret. But police have now detained this woman on charges of making false accusations and attempting to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from Lee. With Lee tragically gone, getting to the full truth of these claims and rumors may prove difficult.
Shockwaves Across Korean Entertainment Industry
The Korean film community is reeling from the loss of one of their most globally successful stars. Fellow prominent actors, directors, and producers have taken to social media to mourn Lee’s death at just 48 years of age.
Lee’s agency also released a statement urging the public to refrain from speculation and spreading false information as his family and colleagues grapple with this devastating news.
The broader entertainment world too is remembering Lee’s charming charisma and impeccable talent that led him to the peak of Korean cinema. In particular, the legacy of Lee’s performance in “Parasite” as the patriarch of a struggling family that ingeniously cons a rich household will live on for decades to come.
Lee Sun-kyun’s sudden passing has cast a dark pall over Korean entertainment. How his home country’s strict anti-drug laws also potentially contributed to this tragedy has prompted some introspection around balancing public health and criminal justice priorities.
What Comes Next
In the immediate aftermath of Lee’s death, a top priority will be determining the exact cause through forensic examination. Toxicology results will be especially crucial to confirm or rule out suicide and shed light on the alleged substance use.
If evidence does point to suicide, debate around Korea’s hardline drug policies and their psychological impacts will likely intensify. The entertainment industry too may need to evaluate safeguards to protect artists during stressful scandals or investigations.
Additionally, Lee’s acquaintance who made accusations against the actor remains detained by police. But with the main counter-party in that alleged drug use scandal deceased, getting to the full facts around what transpired between them could prove even more challenging.
Finally, Lee leaves behind his wife Jeon Hye-jin and two young children. As those closest to him privately grieve this immense personal loss, fans across Korea and globally will surely rally to honor and celebrate Lee’s legendary screen legacy for years to come.
This breaking story will continue to develop over the coming days. But for now, the Korean entertainment world is focused on bidding a shocked and saddened farewell to one of their most talented stars, Lee Sun-kyun.
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