Lee Byung-hun formally apologizes for being blackmailed

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Lee Byung-hun formally apologizes for being blackmailed

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Actor Lee Byung-hun bows to reporters after making an apology for the blackmail scandal that broke out last August. [NEWSIS]

Actor Lee Byung-hun made a formal public apology Friday at his first official appearance before the public after he was embroiled in a blackmail scandal last year.

Prior to a press conference to promote his upcoming film “Memories of the Sword” at the Lotte Cinema in Gwangjin District, eastern Seoul, the 45-year-old Lee appeared on stage alone with a solemn face.

“I express my sincere apology,” Lee said after a brief silence.

“Even when I was filming in the U.S., I agonized every day over what I should say to the public. I felt it was my responsibility to express my apology to the staff who worked with me on this film and also to take full blame for what happened.

“I just don’t want the hard work the staff put into this film to be overshadowed by my past wrongdoings,” he went on.

“The reason I can be here today as actor Lee Byung-hun is because of the interest people take in me. I realized how precious that was and regretted that I let them down. I know that neither an apology nor the passage of time will be enough to fully compensate for their disappointment. However, I will try my best to pay back for my past wrongdoings,” he said with a bow of his head.

The scandal broke out last August when two women - Lee Ji-yeon, a 25-year-old model, and Da-hee, a 20-year-old member of the now-disbanded girl group GLAM - blackmailed Lee. They demanded 5 billion won ($4.6 million) in return for not revealing a video clip that allegedly showed Lee having drinks and using lewd language.

Lee, who married actress Lee Min-jeong in 2013, filed a lawsuit against them and won the case in January. Both women received jail terms of at least one year.

During the trial, however, it became apparent that Lee was having an inappropriate relationship with the younger women when text messages exchanged between them were submitted to the court as evidence.

This is what upset Lee’s fans, particularly when his wife Lee Min-jeong announced that she was pregnant in January.

The release of the period drama “Memories of the Sword,” in which Lee co-stars with Jeon Do-yeon and Kim Go-eun, was postponed indefinitely due to the scandal.

When asked about how he feels about the film finally opening in theaters, Lee again expressed his contrition, saying, “My influence would probably be the biggest factor in delaying the film’s release.

“I sincerely express my apology for such a situation, but on the other hand, I think it couldn’t be a better time to release our film now because with other summer blockbusters released one after another, the audience will have an abundant choice of films at the theater.”

“Memories of the Sword,” a martial arts film set in the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), is opening nationwide Aug. 13.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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