Actor Lee Byung-hun apologizes over blackmail scandal

July 23, 2015
Actor Lee Byung-hun speaks during a news conference in Seoul to promote his upcoming Korean film, "Memories of the Sword." (Yonhap)

Actor Lee Byung-hun speaks during a news conference in Seoul to promote his upcoming Korean film, “Memories of the Sword.” (Yonhap)

SEOUL, July 24 (Yonhap) — Actor Lee Byung-hun made a public apology Friday for causing trouble over a blackmail case in his first public appearance here since the scandal emerged.

“It’s all thanks to your attention that I was able to live as an actor,” Lee said in a trembling voice during a press conference to promote the Korean period action film, “Memories of the Sword.”

“I understand more than before how pressing this matter is, as I spend time repenting for so greatly disappointing you.”

In September, Lee was blackmailed by two women demanding that the actor pay them 5 billion won (US$4.28 million) in exchange for not uploading online a video clip allegedly showing the three of them drinking and making sexual remarks.

Lee won a lawsuit as the court gave the blackmailers a suspended jail term. But he could not escape from the public criticism that he behaved inappropriately as a married man.

“I know very well that a few apologies or time can never help dispel disappointment,” he said, vowing steady efforts to change his ways.

Set in the turbulent late years of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), the martial arts film depicts the story of a master swordsman, who becomes a man of supreme power through acts of betrayal, and the two swordswomen seeking revenge on him 18 years later. Lee plays the ambitious and traitorous man named Yubaek in the film directed by Park Heung-sik, best known for “I Wish I Had a Wife” (2000) and “My Mother, the Mermaid” (2004).

Lee currently is filming a Hollywood remake of the classic 1960 western film “The Magnificent Seven” with Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Wagner Moura.

“Memories of the Sword” was originally scheduled to open last December or January, but the blackmail scandal delayed the opening to Aug. 13.

Also starring actresses Jeon Do-yeon and Kim Go-eun, the movie has drawn attention for being the first film starring both Lee and Jeon since “The Harmonium in My Memory” in 1998. It cost as much as 9 billion won, excluding marketing expenses, to produce “Memories of the Sword.”

Asked about his reasons for being in the film, Lee said its compelling plot led him to choose the script.

“Actually, I don’t like the martial-arts genre,” he said. “But I became fascinated with the story soon after reading the script. The movie’s element of a strong drama moved me.”

Jeon, an internationally acclaimed actress, said it was really difficult to play the blind character Weolso because she was not allowed to blink while acting.

“Before filming, I didn’t know that a blind person doesn’t blink or move their pupils, but I learned this while shooting.”

Park said he is confident the movie will become a box-office sensation this summer.

“Just seeing the three stars acting together would make it quite interesting. I’m sure of it,” he said.