‘Parasite’ Actor Dies of Suspected Suicide Following Drug Investigation

South Korea has legalized medical cannabis, but recreational cannabis use is still illegal and heavily stigmatized.
Actor Lee Sun Kyun receives the award for "Excellent Achievement in Film" during the introduction of the "Killing Romance" Midwest premiere on October 07, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images)

A lead actor in the Oscar-winning movie Parasite has died in an apparent suicide as he was being investigated by South Korean authorities drug use.

Lee Sun-kyun, who played wealthy father Park Dong-ik in Parasite, was found dead in a car on Wednesday morning local time. He was 48.

The vehicle contained a charcoal briquette, which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap. His manager told police he left what appeared to be a suicide note at his home before taking off in his car. Seoul police are still investigating the exact circumstances of his death. 


Lee had been accused by police of using cannabis and other drugs as part of an investigation into drug use at bars in Seoul’s Gangnam district, Yonhap reported. He alleged a hostess at one of the bars tricked him into taking drugs and apologized for “causing immense disappointment” during his first interview with police in October. 

“I am sorry for my family, who are enduring extreme pain at this moment,” he said, according to Yonhap. 

He also took a lie detector test, with his lawyer arguing that the hostess should also submit to one to determine which one of them was telling the truth. The hostess reportedly told police Lee had done drugs on multiple occasions. 

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South Korea has legalized medical cannabis, but recreational cannabis use is still illegal and heavily stigmatized. Breaking the country’s weed laws can result in up to five years in prison. Repeat drug offenders can face up to 14 years in prison. 

Earlier this year, President Yoon Suk Yeol declared a “war on drugs,” which resulted in more aggressive police investigations and the formation of a national task force. 

According to Al Jazeera, Lee’s drug scandal resulted in him being dropped from TV and commercial projects. 

His agency Hodu & U Entertainment has asked the public to refrain from speculating about his death, according to Yonhap. 

“We can’t express how heartbroken and sad we feel... Please refrain from spreading speculation or false information (about him),” the agency said Wednesday.