South Korean Actor Lee Sun-kyun of Oscar-winning Film ‘Parasite’ Is Found Dead (Update 2)

Son Hyun-kyu/Yonhap via AP
Actor Lee Sun-kyun gets out of a car upon his arrival at the Incheon Metropolitan Police in Incheon, South Korea, on Dec. 23.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Lee Sun-kyun, a popular South Korean actor best known for his role in the Oscar-winning movie “Parasite,” was found dead in a car in Seoul on Wednesday, authorities said, after weeks of an intense police investigation into his alleged drug use.

Police and emergency officers initially found Lee in what they believed was an unconscious state in the car parked on a street in northern Seoul. Emergency officers later confirmed he was dead, according to Seoul’s Seongbuk police station.

Police had been searching for Lee, 48, after receiving a report that he was missing, Seongbuk police said.

They refused to provide further details including whether they had determined Lee killed himself. But South Korean media outlets including Yonhap news agency said that Lee’s family earlier Wednesday reported to police that he left home after leaving a message similar to a suicide note.

Lee’s body was later transported to a nearby Seoul hospital, according to Seongbuk police.

Lee appeared in “Parasite,” which won Oscars for best picture and three other categories in 2020. The class satire was the first non-English-language film to win best picture in the then-92-year history of the Academy Awards, and was the first South Korean movie to win an Oscar. In the film, Lee played the head of a wealthy family.

The film’s cast, including Lee, also won a Screen Actors Guild award for the best motion picture ensemble cast in 2020. He was nominated for best actor at the International Emmy Awards for his performance in the sci-fi thriller “Dr. Brain” last year, as well.

Even before “Parasite,” Lee had been a popular actor in South Korea for a long time. He rose to stardom for his role in a hit TV drama series, “Coffee Prince (2007),” and gained mainstream popularity with the medical drama “Behind The White Tower (2007),” “Pasta (2010)” and “My Mister (2018).”

Lee had undergone police probes into allegations that he used illegal drugs at the residence of a bar hostess. Lee filed a suit against two people including the hostess, alleging they blackmailed him. The investigation prompted extensive tabloid coverage. Lee insisted he was tricked into taking the drugs and that he did not know what he was taking, according to Yonhap.

South Korea has long had the highest suicide rate among developed countries. It has also experienced a string of celebrity suicides involving K-pop stars, prominent politicians and business executives. Experts say malicious and abusive online comments and severe cyberbullying were blamed for many of the celebrity suicides.

Seo Dae-youn/Yonhap via AP
Members of the Korea Crime Scene Investigation team investigate the scene where South Korean actor Lee Sun-kyun was found unconscious in Seoul on Wednesday.