In late night proceedings on Wednesday, a Seoul court dismissed police requests for the formal arrest of prominent Korean actor Yoo Ah-in on drug charges.
The star of “Burning,” “The Throne” and Netflix series “Hellbound,” appeared at the Seoul Central District Court on charges that he used five different drugs.
Local media photos showed that Yoo’s hands were tied with what appeared to be a blue cloth or cord before and during his 90-minute daytime court appearance. Footage also showed that he was hit by a bottle of coffee thrown by a disgruntled fan, before Yoo was led away, unhurt, by bodyguards.
Recreational drug use is illegal in South Korea and is heavily stigmatized.
Before entering the court Yoo told media: “I will cooperate faithfully in the remaining processes and reveal all that I can. I regret [using drugs]. I don’t think it is a decision I can make [on whether he should be arrested]. I respect the court’s decision and am thankful.”
The Yonhap news agency reported that Yoo was to be detained at the Mapo Police Station until the court delivered its decision on the arrest warrant. The announcement came at 11.30 p.m.
The court said that Yoo (real name Uhm Hong-sik) had admitted to the majority of charges against him and that most of the evidence had already been collected. Therefore there was no need for a warrant.
“Yoo regrets smoking marijuana, and the charge of using cocaine is still under dispute,” the court said, according to a translation by the JoongAng Daily. “It is difficult to conclude that there are fears of [Yoo] fleeing or destroying evidence.”
Yoo has admitted to the recreational use of marijuana and claimed that use of Propofol, ketamine and Zolpidem, which can all be perceived as sleep aids, were for medical reasons.
He has denied use of cocaine and allegations that he destroyed evidence.
Yoo’s dramatic downfall, whether temporary or long-term, also represents significant disruption to the film, TV and streaming industries where the actor has been highly in demand. Netflix movie “The Match,” in which he faced off against Lee Byung-hun, is completed but no longer has a release date. Yoo is also on board Netflix series “Goodbye Earth,” which was previously scheduled for upload in the fourth quarter of this year. A Netflix spokesman confirmed to Variety that both projects are currently ‘Postponed.”
Yoo was also at one stage attached for a second season of “Hellbound.” However, the streamer has said that the Jung Jin-su character previously portrayed by Yoo has since gone to Kim Sung-cheol.
Additionally, Yoo is the star of theatrical movie “Hi.5,” in which five ordinary people develop superpowers following organ transplants. Filming under major director Kang Hyoung-chul (“Sunny”) wrapped in November 2021 and the completed film was previously scheduled for a June 2023 release.
Yoo became a person of interest in early February after the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said that he had purchased suspicious quantities of Propofol in a series of purchases starting in 2021. Propofol is a strong sedative that can also be used as an anaesthetic.
The authorities have looked into several doctors’ offices and clinics in Seoul that may have administered the drug.
In early February, hair and urine tests conducted by the National Forensic Service appeared to confirmed Yoo’s Propofol use and additionally showed the presence of Marijuana, recreational use of which is illegal in Korea. Further tests are reported to have revealed traces of cocaine and Ketamine.
In early March, police raided Yoo’s home in Itaewon, central Seoul, and another location in Hannam-dong.
The allegations against Yoo have further dented the clean and wholesome image that the Korean entertainment scene would like to portray. It has been rocked by past sex abuse scandals and the untimely deaths of several young stars.