The recent death of Parasite actor Lee Sun Kyun has cast a pall of gloom on S Korean entertainment. The 48-year-old actor was found dead in a case of apparent suicide on Dec 27th 2023 in his car. The actor was under investigation for alleged drug use and had been subject to extensive 19-hour-long questioning by the police a day before the tragic incident.
On Friday a group of South Korean artists, and the newly formed Association of Solidarity of Cultural Artists, led by Lee’s Parasite director Bong Joon Ho called for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death. They expressed their disdain at how the police and media had handled his death to prevent further such tragedies.
“We call for a fact-finding probe into whether there were any security problems regarding the police investigation,” a statement signed by more than 2,000 artists and 29 industry associations was read out by Director Bong.
“We’re asking the press and media,” singer-songwriter Yoon Jong-shin said, “Wasn’t your coverage sensational highlighting someone’s private life just because he was a pop culture artist?’
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Demanding a thorough investigation, Director Bong Joon Ho, also accused the news outlets in S Korea of being nothing more than tabloids. The “sensational coverage” by news outlets and YouTubers which let out unverified reports on Lee Sun Kyun’s private life, saw worldwide outrage.
The artists called out that Lee Sun Kyun was subject to “severe character assassination” before his death and called for a revision in laws to protect individual rights.
The extreme scrutiny as well as the harsh nature of public and media trials that celebrities are subject to has been a cause for concern. Careers destroyed and individuals cancelled by the unforgiving public lens has been further rekindled after the actor’s demise. This show of solidarity a first in the S Korean entertainment scene will not be the last.
S Korea has the highest rate of suicide in the world and is regarded as the fourth largest cause of death as per reports in 2012, the ratio having increased in 2020. The country has experienced a string of celebrity suicides involving K-pop stars, prominent politicians and business executives.
In 2017 K K-pop star Jonghyun took his own life at age 27. In 2019 K-pop singer Sulli was found dead at age 25, she had been subject to intense cyberbullying. The same year Goo Hara another K-pop singer ended her life, it was revealed she was suffering from depression.
In a career spanning over two decades, Lee Sun Kyun became a household name through 2010 starring in several dramas and films. His well-known known and films included Coffee Prince”, Paju” All About My Wife and “My Mister” to name a few. He shot to international fame for his role as the affluent Mr Park in director Bong Joon Ho’s Academy Award-winning film “Parasite”. He was last seen in the thriller, “ Killing Romance”.
The actor is survived by his wife actress Jeon Hye-jin, and their two children. He was laid to rest in a private funeral, in Gwangju, Seoul.