The Korea Herald


Bong Joon-ho questions legitimacy of drug probe into Lee Sun-kyun

Korean artists turn out in force calling for ‘Lee Sun-kyun law’ to protect artists’ human rights

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Jan. 12, 2024 - 14:20

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Bong Joon-ho reads a statement during a press conference held at Korea Press Center in Seoul, Friday. (Yonhap) Bong Joon-ho reads a statement during a press conference held at Korea Press Center in Seoul, Friday. (Yonhap)

Cultural figures including internationally acclaimed “Parasite” director Bong Joon-ho criticized police and media outlets in connection with the death of actor Lee Sun-kyun.

They said they would band in unity to submit the so-called “Lee Sun-kyun Act” to protect artists’ human rights.

Lee, 48, died last month amid a weekslong police investigation into allegations he had used illegal drugs.

The Association of Solidarity of Cultural Artists, a newly established organization of 29 culture and arts groups, said they decided to gather ideas during Lee’s funeral and take action within two weeks of his death so that the issue could be addressed promptly.

Bong Joon-ho, who worked with Lee in the Cannes and Oscar-winning "Parasite," was joined at the press conference by singer-songwriter Yoon Jong-shin, actor Kim Eui-seong, director Lee Won-tae, actor Choi Deok-moon and Choi Jeong-hwa, head of the Producers Guild of Korea.

Questioning whether the police investigation was conducted appropriately, including the legality of Lee's appearance at police headquarters for questioning being made public, Bong said in a faltering voice, "A single sentence that the police have announced -- ‘We have conducted the process in a legitimate manner' -- doesn't mean that they're free from responsibility."

"Only a further probe into the circumstances behind Lee’s death can prevent a second or third victim from suffering,” Bong added, reading from a prepared statement.

He also asked whether a controversial report by a public broadcaster served any public benefit.

“A KBS report on Nov. 24 included many of the details from the police investigation. How they obtained such sources and details will have to come to light,” Bong added.

KBS, a state-run public broadcaster, was one of the media outlets that released a provocative report on the personal life of Lee, which the group says was irrelevant to the allegations against him.

Singer-songwriter Yoon Jong-shin also echoed the view in a statement.

“Just because entertainers receive recognition from the public through media doesn’t mean that the media can report about entertainers without clear fact-checking. What yellow journalism and ‘cyber wreckers’ are doing now should be fixed,” said Yoon.

His use of the term cyber wreckers referred to YouTubers and other one-person media that quickly gather information online and create sensational content.

While Lee was under police investigation, many YouTubers created videos that covered Lee’s private life, including ones that cited the KBS report of a recorded phone conversation between Lee and a "room club" bar hostess at a high-end bar in Gangnam.

Lee was suspected of doing drugs at her home on several occasions. KBS has defended the report, arguing it demonstrated the connection between the two.

The artist also called for media outlets to voluntarily delete articles that do not serve the public good, saying that Lee’s bereaved family will live in a “digital prison” forever.

The Association of Solidarity of Cultural Artists plans to deliver its written statement to the speaker of the National Assembly, as well as to the police and KBS.

They also plan to continue their collective action until they “get an acceptable result” and join hands with other artist groups for the so-called “Lee Sun-kyun Act,” which aims to protect the human rights of artists, though no details were given as to what the content of the bill would be.

Lee was found dead inside a car parked near Waryong Park in northern Jongno-gu, Seoul, on Dec. 27. just days after the 19-hour-long third round of police questioning over suspicions of illegal drug use. Claiming innocence, Lee had requested a lie detector test.

Police closed the investigation last month following Lee’s death.