Hee-bong’s family confirmed that the actor died Monday after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer in a statement to local news outlet Yonhap News Agency.
Born in southern Korea in 1924, Hee-bong began his career on the stage before transitioning to TV. Some of his most notable small screen credits include The First Republic (1981), The Joseon Dynasty 500 Years: Seoljungmae (1985), and The Legendary Doctor – Hur Jun (1999).
Hee-bong later moved to the big screen. He is best known internationally for his work with Parasite filmmaker Bong Joon-ho. Hee-bong starred in four films by the Oscar winner: Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), Memories of Murder (2003), The Host (2006), and Okja (2017).
Hee-bong picked up numerous awards throughout his career, including the Baeksang Arts Award for Most Popular Actor in 1985 and Best Supporting Actor at the 2006 Blue Dragon Film Awards for his performance in The Host.
In 2020, he was awarded the Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit, the Korean government’s second-highest class of the South Korean cultural decoration. The gong is awarded by the President of South Korea for “outstanding meritorious services in the fields of culture and art in the interest of promoting the national culture and national development.”
Byun’s final on-screen appearance appears to be the 2019 K-drama series, My Lawyer, Mr. Jo 2: Crime and Punishment. The show is a sequel to the 2016 television series My Lawyer, Mr. Jo.