Lee Sun-kyun, a South Korean actor who starred in the 2020 Oscar best picture winner “Parasite,” died Wednesday morning, according to the Associated Press and the South Korean news agency Yonhap. He was 48.
He was found dead in a car in a central Seoul park, according to AP. Police had been looking for Lee after his family claimed he wrote a suicide note and left home early on Wednesday.
Lee had recently been under police investigation for alleged illegal drug use. South Korea’s Incheon Metropolitan Police Agency had been investigating Lee and seven other people over alleged drug use; Lee claimed to be the victim of blackmail by another person being investigated and allegedly lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to extortion. According to Yonhap, police questioned Lee three times, as recently as last Saturday, for his alleged use of marijuana and other drugs at the home of a hostess of a high-end bar in Seoul several times earlier this year. He claimed to have been tricked and didn’t know what he was taking.
In 2020, “Parasite” won four Academy Awards, including best picture, director for Bong Joon-ho, original screenplay and international feature film for South Korea. It also won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first South Korean film to do achieve the honor. The “Parasite” cast, including Lee, won a Screen Actors Guild award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture.
In the film, Lee played Park Dong-ik, the father of the wealthy Park family who unknowingly hires members of the scamming, lower-class Kim family into his home to help with his children and run his household. When the ruse is finally revealed, Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) kills Mr. Park in a fit of rage at his daughter’s birthday party.
After rising to fame in “Parasite,” Lee starred in the Apple TV+ series “Dr. Brain,” its first South Korean series, and was nominated for best actor at the 2022 International Emmy Awards. He also starred in South Korean projects like “Payback,” “Diary of a Prosecutor,” “My Mister,” “Killing Romance,” “Kingmaker” and many more in the 2000s and 2010s.
Lee was a very familiar figure in Korean cinema. In Cannes this year he appeared in “Project Silence” and “Sleep.” The latter had its commercial release in September and topped the Korean box office charts for three weeks.
Lee is survived by his wife, actor Jeon Hye-jin, and their two children.