Lee Sun-kyun, a popular South Korean actor who starred in the Oscar-winning film “Parasite,” was found dead in a car in a park in Seoul on Wednesday, in what police suspect was a suicide after weeks of an intense investigation into his alleged drug use.
Lee, 48, was discovered by police and emergency officers in an unconscious state in the car, and was later pronounced dead at the scene, according to Seoul’s Seongbuk police station. His body was transported to a nearby hospital for an autopsy.
Police said they had been searching for Lee after receiving a report from his family that he was missing. They also said that Lee had left a note at his home that indicated his intention to end his life, but did not disclose the contents of the note.
Lee had been under police scrutiny for allegedly using illegal drugs at the home of a bar hostess earlier this year. He was questioned by police three times, most recently on Saturday, when he was interrogated for 19 hours. He denied the accusations and claimed that he was deceived into taking the drugs, according to local media reports.
The drug scandal had tarnished Lee’s reputation and career, as he lost several acting projects and faced public backlash. South Korea has strict laws and social stigma against drug use, and offenders can face up to 14 years in prison.
Lee was best known for his role as the wealthy patriarch of the Park family in Bong Joon-ho’s dark comedy “Parasite,” which won four Oscars in 2020, including best picture, best director, and best original screenplay. The film was the first non-English-language film to win the top prize at the Academy Awards, and the first South Korean film to win any Oscar.
Lee also won a Screen Actors Guild award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture for his role in “Parasite” in 2021. He was nominated for best actor at the International Emmy Awards for his performance in the sci-fi thriller “Dr. Brain” in 2022.
Lee had been a popular and acclaimed actor in South Korea for more than two decades, starring in numerous films and TV dramas, such as “Coffee Prince,” “Behind the White Tower,” “Pasta,” and “My Mister.” He was married to actress Jeon Hye-jin, and had two sons.