S. Korean TV celebs charged with propofol abuse

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean prosecutors said Thursday they had charged four TV celebrities with illegal use of propofol, a short-acting sedative and anaesthetic blamed in the death of US pop legend Michael Jackson.

Park Si Yeon, Lee Seung Yeon, Jang Mi In Ae and Hyun Young were charged with taking the prescription drug for "non-medical purposes", said a spokesman for the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office.

Two doctors who prescribed the drugs for them were also arrested.

"The doctors indiscriminately injected the drugs without consideration of the risks of addiction, to earn more cash," he said.

Propofol is a powerful sedative used as a general anaesthetic. It reduces anxiety and promotes relaxation but may cause a person to experience hallucinations.

South Korea classified the drug as a psychotropic medicine two years ago, making it illegal to prescribe or consume other than for stipulated treatments that may need anaesthesia, such as a gastro-intestinal endoscopy.

Park, a top actress who appeared in many TV shows and movies, allegedly received the so-called "milk shot" containing the creamy-coloured propofol 185 times from February 2011 to last December, prosecutors said.

Lee, an actress and a TV talk show host, allegedly got 111 injections during the same period, and fellow actress Jang 95 shots in 2011 and 2012.

Hyun, an actress and TV show host, also got 42 shots in 2011, according to prosecutors.

All four insisted they had received the injections for dermatological and plastic surgery treatments.

The charges against the four celebrities follow numerous media reports regarding the extensive abuse of propofol in the entertainment industry, with performers using the drug to mitigate the impact of gruelling schedules.

In 2011, Michael Jackson's doctor Conrad Murray was jailed for four years after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson propofol nightly for some two months before his death, and on the day he died, on June 25, 2009.

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