‘Parasite’ Actor Lee Sun-kyun Removed From Upcoming Drama No Way Out Amid Police Probe Over Suspected Drug Use

‘Parasite’ Actor Lee Sun-kyun Removed From Upcoming Drama No Way Out Amid Police Probe Over Suspected Drug Use

Lee Sun-kyun, the South Korean actor who’s best known for his role of Dong Ik in the Oscar-winning Korean film Parasite, is being removed from the upcoming black comedy No Way Out, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The movie’s producer, Studio X+U, released a statement today confirming the news, after reports surfaced that he was being investigated by the police over suspected drug use.

“Following an unfortunate incident last week with the actor Lee Sun-gyun, he expressed that it would take a considerable amount of time to sort out the current situation and that he will inevitably drop out” from shooting the movie, the statement noted. “The company reached an agreement with Lee’s agency and respects the actor’s position. Shooting will continue as scheduled, and there will be no further delay.”

No Way Out will follow the contract killing of a man who was just released from prison after serving 13 years. Lee was cast in the role of a detective in the film, which started shooting last week.

Besides No Way Out, two other movies that feature Lee are currently waiting to be distributed in theaters. The disaster film Project Silence, which was directed by Kim Tae-gon, follows people who are stranded on a collapsing bridge amid heavy fog. The movie was screened at Cannes in May and is expected to be released next year. Land of Heaven, which chronicles a soldier caught up in a dramatic event in modern Korean history, is currently in post-production.

Last week, it was reported that the Incheon Metropolitan Police Agency had launched an investigation into eight suspects, including Lee. The suspects were allegedly engaging in drug use in local bars and their homes, in violation of Korea’s Drugs Control Act.

After launching the investigation, the police released the following statement: “While investigating drug-related activities primarily within entertainment establishments in Gangnam, we obtained information that a celebrity is involved in drug use. We are currently conducting an internal investigation involving eight individuals including L, a male actor in his 40s,” who is believed to be Lee.

The police have requested a hair sample to determine whether the actor smoked marijuana. Recreational cannabis use is illegal in South Korea. Those who are convicted of recreational cannabis use may receive up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won (approximately $42,556). Due to the country’s conservative stance on drug use, it’s not uncommon for Korean actors involved in police investigations to be dropped from projects.

There was also speculation that the actor had taken drugs with the children of the head of an industrial conglomerate. However, the actor’s attorney said today through a local newswire that Lee doesn’t know them.

Also being questioned in the drug investigation is former idol trainee Han Seo-hee. She was involved in a 2017 cannabis scandal with k-pop star T.O.P and Hwang Ha-na, the granddaughter of the founder of Namyang Dairy Products and the ex-fiancee of Park Yoo-chun. Other suspects in the cast have not yet been publicly revealed.

The attorney, however, neither acknowledged nor denied Lee’s drug use, instead only relaying that “it’s difficult to say” whether the actor had actually taken the drugs. The attorney added that the star “will cooperate with the police investigation in a faithful manner.”

The actor’s management agency, HODU&U, has also reported that he has filed a blackmail complaint against another person involved in the drug case. His lawyer said he wasn’t aware of the number or the identities of the blackmailer, including whether there was a single person or two people involved.

Lee added that the blackmailer had extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars from him. A report from the Incheon Metropolitan Police Agency stated that the amount he paid the blackmailer is around 300 million won (about $221,900).

Hodu & U put out a press release last week, apologizing for any concerns caused by the allegations. “We sincerely apologize for any distress caused by the reports regarding actor Lee Seon-gyun. We are currently verifying facts around the allegations and will continue to work diligently with law enforcement agencies in any investigations that may be conducted,” the press release stated.

In addition to Parasite, the 48-year-old actor has also starred in such films as All About My Wife and King Maker. In 2020, he won a Screen Actors Guild Award for his participation in Parasite.

Korea has seen a spike in drug-related crimes recently, especially in the entertainment industry. Earlier this year, actor Yoo Ah-in was indicted for taking more than seven different drugs, including cocaine, for non-medical purposes.

The 37-year-old actor is known for starring in the 2018 film Burning and the hit Netflix drama television series Hellbound. The release of his movies The Match and series Goodbye Earth on Netflix have been postponed indefinitely.

Check out more of Karen Benardello’s articles.

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