‘Parasite’ Actor Lee Sun-kyun Found Dead Amid Drug Probe

Lee Sun-kyun dead
Lee Sun-kyun

Lee Sun-kyun, the acclaimed South Korean actor renowned for his roles in Bong Joon Ho’s Oscar-winning masterpiece ‘Parasite’ and the captivating Apple TV+ series Dr. Brain, tragically passed away at the age of 48, in what appears to be a devastating case of suicide.


According to South Korean news agency Yonhap, Lee was discovered deceased inside a car at a park in Seoul on Wednesday morning, local time. Yonhap further reports that Lee’s wife informed the authorities that the actor had departed from home, and she had come across what seemed to be a note indicating suicide.


According to local media reports, Lee has been under investigation for alleged use of illegal drugs. In recent weeks, the South Korean government has intensified its efforts to combat hard drugs, leading to a wave of allegations against prominent individuals including actors, singers, socialites, and heirs to the country’s wealthiest families. Notably, K-pop singer G-Dragon was also implicated in the crackdown, although he was cleared of any wrongdoing just last week.

According to Yonhap, Lee has been questioned by the police three times, including a 19-hour session over the weekend, regarding his use of marijuana and psychoactive drugs. It is reported that Lee has frequented Seoul’s Gangnam district multiple times since the beginning of this year, including last Saturday, when he allegedly consumed drugs. The actor claims to have been deceived into taking drugs by a bar hostess who then attempted to extort him.

South Korea has a reputation for having strict drug laws, imposing prison sentences of at least six months and up to 14 years for repeat offenders and dealers.

Known as “The Voice” by his Korean fans due to his deep voice, Lee gained recognition among Western audiences for his portrayal of Park Dong-ik, the wealthy patriarch of the family that owns the house in Bong’s critically acclaimed black comedy thriller Parasite. Lee, along with the rest of the Parasite cast, received a Screen Actors Guild Award in recognition of their outstanding performance.

Lee Sun-Kyun in ‘Parasite'
Lee Sun-Kyun in ‘Parasite.’ EVERETT COLLECTION

Lee, born in Seoul in 1975, pursued a drama education at the Korea National University of Arts. He gained recognition through his role in the medical drama White Tower (2007) and garnered praise for his performance in the youthful drama Coffee Prince (2007).

On television, Lee gained recognition for his fruitful collaborations with writer Seo Sook-hyang. Together, they brought us captivating stories such as Drama City, the beloved workplace romantic comedy Pasta (2010), where Lee portrayed an arrogant chef at an Italian restaurant. Another notable project was the 1997-set drama Miss Korea (2013), showcasing their storytelling talent.

He made a transition to feature films and in 2012, he had prominent roles in two of the top Korean films of that year. He played the lead character in Byun Young-joo’s gripping psychological thriller “Helpless” and portrayed the role of a timid husband in Min Kyu-dong’s delightful romantic comedy “All About My Wife”.

Lee was a highly versatile actor who effortlessly transitioned between prominent films, impactful television dramas, and captivating theater productions. Notably, he worked on three independent films alongside the prolific Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo. These films include Night and Day (2008), Oki’s Movie (2010), and Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (2013).

Lee Sun-kyun in ‘A Hard Day’
Lee Sun-kyun in ‘A Hard Day’ EVERETT COLLECTION

He has also starred in several remarkable films. One notable example is his leading role in A Hard Day (2014), an action thriller directed by Kim Seong-hun that was screened in the Directors’ Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival. Another noteworthy film is Paju (2009) directed by Park Chan-ok, which received recognition in the international festival circuit.

In 2021, Lee took the lead in “Dr. Brain,” Apple TV+’s groundbreaking Korean-language series. In this captivating six-episode sci-fi thriller, he mesmerized audiences as Koh Se-won, a brilliant neurologist driven by a chilling determination to uncover the truth behind a perplexing family enigma. Employing daring brain experiments, Koh Se-won embarks on a relentless quest for clues, captivating viewers with an intricately woven tale of mystery and intrigue.

Lee is survived by his wife, the talented actress Jeon Hye-jin, and their two beloved sons.