South Korean actor Byun Hee-bong of Okja fame has died. He was 81.
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Byun’s death was confirmed by his family today (September 18), as reported by South Korean news outlet Yonhap News Agency. The actor had been battling pancreatic cancer.
The actor, born 1942, made his entertainment industry debut in 1966 as a voice actor for TV network MBC, before making his small screen debut in 1970. Throughout the decade, he would appear in a handful of TV series, later transitioning to the big screen in 1980.
Later in his career, Byun would go on to work closely with acclaimed director Bong Joon-ho, appearing in four of his films: Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), Memories of Murder (2003), The Host (2006) and Okja (2017).
Byun’s final role would be his appearance in the 2019 K-drama series, My Lawyer, Mr. Jo 2: Crime and Punishment, a sequel to the popular 2016 series My Lawyer, Mr. Jo.
Thoughout his career, Byun was awarded a number of accolades for his work, including the Most Popular Actor at the 21st Baeksang Arts Awards in 1985 and Best Supporting Actor for The Host at the 27th Blue Dragon Film Awards in 2006.
According to Yonhap News Agency, the actor also received the Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit in 2020 from the South Korean government in recognition of his contribution to the nation’s pop culture.