A Seoul court found Korean actor Ha Jung-woo, star of the films “Ashfall” and “Along with the Gods,” guilty of illegal use of propofol, a psychoactive sleep anesthetic drug.
During a hearing on Sept. 14, the Seoul Central District Court issued a decision and imposed a fine of 30 million won (about $25,654) against Ha Jung-woo for violation of Korea’s Narcotics Control Act.
The amount is higher than the 10 million won ($8,551) earlier sought by prosecutors. The court also imposed a forfeiture of 88,749 won ($76) against the actor.
Propofol is a highly regulated drug in South Korea that the country’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety warned in September last year that it can be abused.
“Medical professionals must properly adjust propofol dose based on the patient’s weight, always bearing in mind that propofol has a high risk of misuse and abuse. Propofol should not be administered independently without reasons related to surgery, surgical procedures, or medical examinations,” the ministry said.
Ha Jung-woo was charged by prosecutors for using propofol 19 times for non-medical purposes at a plastic surgery clinic in Gangnam, Seoul from January to September 2019. Prosecutors said he illegally administered propofol under the name of his younger brother and manager.
“Each crime is not light, such as colluding with a doctor to create false medical records. As an actor loved by the public, his responsibility is heavier for committing a crime,” the court said in the ruling.
During the first hearing on Aug. 10, Ha Jung-woo spoke in court and admitted all the charges against him.
“I bow my head and deeply apologize for causing concern and harm to my colleagues and family when a popular actor who has a lot of interest should live carefully and set an example,” he said. “I’m ashamed but I want to make a promise in front of the judge that I will become an actor who contributes to good influence on society.”
Ha Jung-woo, who hired 10 lawyers from four law firms to defend him for this case, added, “I will be more careful not to stand here again, and I ask the judge for leniency so that I can make up for this mistake and pay off the debt.”
After his sentencing, Ha Jung-woo told the media, “I have nothing to say about the outcome of the sentencing. I will humbly accept the results, be careful and live a healthy life.”
Prosecutors initially filed a summary indictment against the actor, seeking to impose a fine of 10 million won ($8,694). With a summary indictment, Ha Jung-woo would not undergo trial. However, the Seoul Central District Court rejected this and ordered Ha Jung-woo to undergo a public trial.
Ha Jung-woo is the latest Korean celebrity found guilty for illegal use of propofol.
Last July, the Korean media reported that the Suwon District Court earlier found K-pop girl group Brown Eyed Girls member Son Ga-in guilty of illegally using propofol and fined her 1 million won ($855).
In March, a court convicted Korean singer-songwriter Wheesung for using propofol and sentenced him to one year in prison suspended for two years. He was also ordered to do 40 hours of community service and 40 hours of drug therapy lectures, and pay a fine of 60.5 million won (about $51,607).