Lee Sun-kyun: 'Parasite' Actor Was Dropped from TV Projects after Being Investigated for Taking Drugs Before He Was Found Dead in Car

After his final session on December 23, his lawyer requested that any subsequent questioning be conducted in private, owing to the "burden" of public scrutiny.

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South Korean actor Lee Sun-kyun, who gained global recognition after starring in the Oscar-winning film "Parasite", was dropped from several major projects just weeks before his death, after it was revealed that he was under investigation for drug use. Lee Sun-kyun was found dead in his car in a suspected suicide at the age of 48 on Wednesday morning.

Lee was being probed for alleged illegal drug use as part of an ongoing government crackdown on illicit substances. His wife, Jeon Hye-jin, an actress and former Miss Korea contestant, called up the police and told them about finding a suicide note after Lee's body was found in the car park.

Dropped from Several Projects

Lee Sun-kyun
Lee Sun-kyun X

Lee was under police investigation over accusations of taking marijuana and a powder identified by his accuser, a hostess at an upscale bar, as ketamine. She claimed that Lee took the drug at her home.

Following the publication of news of the official investigation in late October, Lee was dropped from major projects, including the mystery thriller TV show "No Way Out," which began filming that month.

Lee Sun-kyun
Lee Sun-kyun X

The production company overseeing the TV show tried to fire him after authorities indicated the potential need for a sample of his hair for drug testing, according to local media reports.

The production company handling the TV show, which revolves around a South Korean serial killer pursued by a police officer, announced that it had informed the entire crew and cast of the project about Lee being dropped.

The shooting was scheduled to be postponed for two weeks to reorganize the cast in light of the circumstances.

Lee's three appearances at police stations for questioning had garnered significant attention and media coverage. After his final session on December 23, his lawyer requested that any subsequent questioning be conducted in private, owing to the "burden" of public scrutiny.

According to Yonhap, the actor claimed that he was deceived into taking drugs by a bar hostess who subsequently tried to blackmail him.

At the time of his death, he was actively requesting a lie detector test to determine the truthfulness of both him and the hostess, identified only as 'A.'

Lee claimed that 'A' was attempting to blackmail him and had filed a criminal case in response.

Lee Sun-kyun
Lee Sun-kyun in 'Parasite' X

"I would like to sincerely apologize once again for causing so many people concerns," he said after his first questioning, on October 28 at the Nonhyeon Police Station in Incheon.

"I will answer all questions truthfully.

"A' tricked me into doing drugs. I did not know that what she handed me were illegal drugs."

Tarnished Image Led to Suicide

South Korea enforces stringent drug laws, with drug offenses usually carrying a minimum prison sentence of six months and up to 14 years for repeat offenders and dealers.

Lee Sun-kyun
Lee Sun-kyun X

Following his first police interview, Lee Sun-kyun issued a public apology for his "involvement in such a dishonorable affair." He committed to cooperate with the investigation in an "honest" manner.

Lee was questioned on three occasions: in October, on November 4, and on December 23. During the last session, he arrived at the police station at 10 am and was interrogated for 19 hours.

Lee's attorney claimed last week that he should be spared from additional public humiliation by avoiding appearances at the police station for questioning. The actor reportedly felt burdened by having to face cameras during police summons.

Born in 1975, Lee played a prominent role as the father in Parasite alongside international screen icon Song Kang-ho.

The movie became a global blockbuster. Parasite made history as the first Korean film to win the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and also became the first non-English film to win the Best Picture award at the Academy Awards.

Lee Sun-kyun
Lee Sun-kyun X

It also received three other Oscars, including Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film.

Lee had notable roles in South Korean films, such as the 2012 thriller 'Helpless' and 2014's 'All About My Wife', among others.

He also played the lead role in Apple TV+'s first Korean-language original series, which premiered in 2021.

In the six-episode sci-fi thriller "Dr. Brain," Lee portrayed Koh Se-won, a cold-hearted neurologist investigating a mysterious family accident through brain experiments.

Lee's career skyrocketed after his role in the popular Korean drama "Coffee Prince" in 2007, which also featured actors Gong Yoo, known for "Squid Game" and "Train To Busan," as well as Yoo Eun-hye and Kim Jae-wook.

In the same year, he secured a role in the successful medical drama "Behind The White Tower."

In 2021, Lee appeared in the romantic comedy "Killing Romance," released in April.

In the film, directed by Lee Won-suk, the late actor portrayed the character of Jonathan Na.