Internationally acclaimed Parasite director Bong Joon Ho, along with other cultural figures in the Korean entertainment industry, recently criticized the police and media while addressing the death of actor Lee Sun Kyun. The group also announced their intention to call for a so-called “Lee Sun Kyun Act” to protect the human rights of artists.
Lee Sun Kyun, the 48-year-old actor, passed away last month amidst being investigated for a highly publicized drug probe. After the actor’s passing, the media outlet Dispatch published reports accusing the police and the media of colluding to publicize confidential information about the actor without fact-checking.
On January 12, KST, the Association of Solidarity of Cultural Artists, a newly-formed organization of 29 culture and arts groups, held a press conference regarding the death of Lee. The members said that during Lee’s funeral, they had decided to gather ideas and take action within two weeks of his death to address the issue promptly. Bong Joon Ho, who worked with Lee Sun Kyun in his Oscar-winning movie Parasite, was joined by other veteran cultural figures at the press event, including singer-songwriter Yoon Jong Shin, director Lee Won Tae, actors Kim Eui Sung and Choi Deok Moon, and the head of the Producers Guild of Korea, Choi Jung Hwa.
Bong addressed the press, visibly emotional, asking for better accountability from the police. He questioned the legality of the entire investigation process, including the fact that Lee’s appearance at the Yongsan police station for questioning was made public.
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.
— Bong Joon Ho
He demanded that authorities examine the police force’s information security to ensure that Lee Sun Kyun’s case was handled within the boundaries of legal rights.
Only a further probe into the circumstances behind Lee’s death can prevent a second or third victim from suffering.
— Bong Joon Ho
The director also called out the controversial reporting on Lee’s personal life, asking whether such information served any public benefit. He also questioned the sources of the media houses that reported on the police investigation in detail despite it being confidential information.
A KBS report on November 24 included many of the details from the police investigation. How they obtained such sources and details will have to come to light.
— Bong Joon Ho
Singer-songwriter Yoon Jong Shin also spoke on the same issue, asking for a probe into whether the media outlets willingly published articles about Lee Sun Kyun’s personal life and asked the police to have him do a perp walk without any reason for pictures. He also called out the one-person media channels on social networking platforms, which often create sensational content without any real fact-checking.
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.
— Yoo Jong Shin
Actor Kim Eui Sung said that he hoped such an unfortunate event would never occur again during the investigation of any public figure.
The Association of Solidarity of Cultural Artists asked media outlets to voluntarily delete articles related to the late actor’s personal life and any other information that has no business being made public, stating that the bereaved family will otherwise live in a “digital prison” forever. The association also plans to deliver a written statement to the speaker of the National Assembly, the police, and KBS, the national broadcaster that shared provocative reports on Lee’s personal life.
The members also announced their intent to keep up with their collective action until they “get an acceptable result.” They also plan to organize efforts in collaboration with other artist groups to propose the so-called “Lee Sun Kyun Act.” Though they didn’t divulge about the bill’s specific contents, its aim is said to be protecting the human rights of artists.
Immediately before his death, Lee Sun Kyun underwent a third police interrogation that went on for 19 hours. He was under investigation for suspected drug use, but the actor claimed innocence, and his drug tests came out negative multiple times. During the last questioning, he had requested a lie detector test, but soon after, on December 27, 2023, he was found dead inside a car parked near Jongno, Seoul.