SEOUL, Sept. 18 (Yonhap) -- Veteran actor Byun Hee-bong died Monday at age 81 after battling pancreatic cancer that had previously been cured, his family said.
Born in 1942 in Jangseong in South Jeolla Province, Byun made his debut in the entertainment industry in 1966 as a voice actor for major TV network MBC. He had previously worked as a stage actor.
He later turned to acting full-time, appearing in numerous TV series, such as "The First Republic" (1981), "The Joseon Dynasty 500 Years: Seoljungmae" (1985) and "The Legendary Doctor - Hur Jun" (1999).
He left strong impressions on movie fans at home and abroad for his roles in four of acclaimed director Bong Joon-ho's hit films -- "Barking Dogs Never Bite" (2000), "Memories of Murder" (2003), "The Host" (2006) and "Okja" (2017).
Byun won the award for the most popular actor in the TV category at the 21st Baeksang Arts Awards for his role in the period drama series "The Joseon Dynasty 500 Years: Seoljungmae," and best supporting actor at the 27th Blue Dragon Awards for his role in "The Host."
In 2020, he received the Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit, the second-highest class of the South Korean cultural decoration, from the government in recognition of his contribution to the development of the nation's pop culture.