With the Park Shi Hoo rape investigation dominating the entertainment headlines in Korea, and for good reason since its like a circus freakshow crossed with a very badly written makjang weekend drama mixed with a CSI rip-off, yet another really alarming police investigation and scandal has reached an apex this week. Since early February police in Seoul have been investigating actresses Park Shi Yeon, Lee Seung Yeon, Hyun Young, and Jang Mi In Ae for propofol abuse. All four actresses immediately asserted that they were administered propofol only in connection with undergoing plastic surgery and other cosmetic procedures at clinics in Gangnam. After investigating for the past month, the Seoul prosecutor’s office announced this week that they were filing indictments against two doctors and a nurse for administering propofol unnecessarily to patients, and will also be charging Park Shi Yeon and Lee Seung Yeon with propofol abuse. Apparently Park Shi Yeon was administered propofol over 185 times (!) between November 2011 and December 2012 (she claimed it was for carboxy therapy), while Lee Seung Yeon was hitting up that stuff 111 times during the same time period (ostensibly when she got Botox injections). Lesser users Jang Mi In Ae (95 times) and Hyun Young (42 times) will only be fined for this willful violation of the law on recreational drug use. For those unclear what exactly these actresses were getting, propofol is a short-acting intravenously administered hypnotic drug. It is the drug of choice at hospitals to put patients under for surgery, used for induction and maintenance of anesthesia. Risk for addiction to propofol runs high since it puts the user in a trance-like state and blocks out the world, thereby reducing anxiety. Michael Jackson died from side-affects from repeatedly abusing propofol. Some reactions to propofol include mild euphoria, hallucinations, and disinhibition, and repeated use can quickly lead to an addiction to the high it gives the patient. Recent studies have shown that there is a preponderance of propofol addicts who turn out to be suffering from past trauma and are using it to disassociate from their pain, and may even have initially started using because they suffered insomnia and propofol puts people to sleep.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, people. There have been numerous media reports over the years regarding the extensive abuse of propofol in the Korean entertainment industry as the drug of choice by entertainers as a way to deal with their punishing work schedules and difficult career bumps. Chances are these four ladies, all well-known to be plastic surgery addicts, got hooked on propofol when they did encounter it initially when getting legit plastic surgery, and later found enablers to keep them hooked up to the milk shot (propofol is administered in a white liquid form). With the Korean criminal justice system, I don’t know if Park Shi Yeon or Lee Seung Yeon will serve any time, but I’m more worried knowing the sheer quantity of this psychotropic drug they have been taking in. It’s too early to say whether all four ladies’ careers are over, but I do think the sexist double standard in the Korean entertainment industry will make it harder for them to mount a comeback than if they were popular male stars caught doing the same (or worse) behavior. I worry for their health the most as there is a startling high percentage of propofol abusers who die from the high or from incorrectly administering the dosage. This is just depressing news to digest.