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Okja actor Byun Hee Bong dies at 81

Veteran actor Byun Hee Bong died on Monday. He was 81. While the reason behind his death is not known yet, he was earlier diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As per Korean media outlets, Hee Bong was cancer free after undergoing treatment, however, the cancer had relapsed. Also read: The Host review

Byun Hee Bong in a still image from Okja. (Netflix)

Byun Hee Bong’s career

Byun Hee Bong was a popular face in the Korean film industry with decades of experience. He began his career as a voice artist in MBC‘s second open recruitment in 1966. He later made his acting debut and worked in several films and television shows for more than 50 years.

Byun Hee Bong and Bong Joon Ho

He was best known for his association with director Bong Joon Ho. Byun Hee Bong’s career revived after starring in his hit supporting role in Bong Joon-ho’s directorial debut Barking Dogs Never Bite. In the film, he played the role of a bizarre apartment maintenance man who loved dog meat. The success of the film, led Bong to cast him in his short film Sink & Rise (2004), and also his crime drama Memories of Murder (2003). He was also in the popular monster movie The Host (2006). Later, the two once again collaborated for Okja (2016).

Besides these, Byun Hee Bong’s other best works include Eunuch (1986), A Surrogate Father (1993), Volcano High (2001), rural dramedy My Teacher Mr Kim (2003), To Catch a Virgin Ghost (2004), The Devil’s Game (2008), Lump in My Life (2014), The Spies (2012).

In TV shows, he is remembered to play roles of endearing fathers, grandfathers or even stern aged men. He appeared in shows like My Girl, My Girlfriend Is a Nine-Tailed Fox and Pinocchio.

Byun Hee Bong’s cancer diagnosis

Byun Hee Bong was diagnosed with cancer after he was offered the K-drama Mr Sunshine. In 2018, he shared on tvN’s show What About My Age that he found out about his health scare after a health check. He had said, “After being cast, I thought that I should take care of my health. There’s still a place for me to be of use. So, I went for a health checkup… If it wasn’t for that, it would have been the end. It was cancer. If I hadn’t done the health checkup at that time and hadn’t been cast, I wouldn’t be here today.”

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