Was ‘Parasite’ star Lee Sun-kyun removed from project amidst suspected drug use probe?

Lee Sun-kyun, who gained recognition for his role in the award-winning Korean film Parasite, will no longer be a part of the new drama No Way Out. This black comedy revolves around the contract killing of a man recently released from a 13-year prison sentence. Lee was initially cast to portray a detective in the film, which commenced filming last week.

Unfortunately, news broke on Monday that Lee is currently under investigation by the police due to suspected drug use. Consequently, the production company, Studio X+U, released a statement stating that they were exploring other options to replace Lee in the project.

According to the statement, “Following an unfortunate incident last week involving actor Lee Sun-kyun, he has expressed that it would take a considerable amount of time to resolve the current situation, and he will inevitably withdraw from shooting the project. The company has reached an agreement with Lee’s agency and respects the actor’s decision. Shooting will continue as scheduled, with no further delays.”

Aside from No Way Out, Lee also stars in two other films awaiting release. Project Silence, directed by Kim Tae-gon, is a disaster film about people trapped on a collapsing bridge amidst heavy fog. It was screened at Cannes in May and is scheduled for release next year. Land of Heaven, a film centered around a soldier entangled in a significant event in modern Korean history, is currently in post-production.

Last week, it was reported that the Incheon Metropolitan Police Agency had initiated an investigation into eight individuals, including Lee, for alleged drug use in local bars and residences. There were also rumors that Lee had taken drugs in the company of the offspring of a prominent industrial conglomerate head, as identified by the police. However, Lee’s attorney stated through a local newswire outlet that Lee has no acquaintance with those individuals.

The attorney neither confirmed nor denied Lee’s drug use, commenting, “it’s difficult to say” whether Lee had actually consumed drugs. Nevertheless, the attorney assured that the star will fully cooperate with the police investigation.

Lee’s agency, Hodu & U, issued a press release last week apologizing for any concerns caused to the actor’s fans. The statement read, “We sincerely apologize for any distress caused by the reports regarding actor Lee Sun-kyun. We are currently verifying the facts surrounding the allegations and will continue to diligently cooperate with law enforcement agencies during any investigations.”

At 48 years old, Lee has appeared in films such as All About My Wife (2012) and King Maker (2018). In 2020, he was honored with a Screen Actors Guild Award for his role in Parasite.

In recent times, South Korea has witnessed a rise in drug-related crimes, particularly within the entertainment industry. This year, actor Yoo Ah-in faced indictment for the recreational use of over seven types of drugs, including cocaine. Yoo, known for his roles in the film Burning (2018) and the popular Netflix series Hellbound, had the release of his movie The Match and the series Goodbye Earth indefinitely postponed.