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S. Korean pop star T.O.P in 'critical condition'
[SEOUL] South Korean pop star T.O.P is in critical condition, his doctor said Wednesday, a day after the singer was hospitalised following an apparent drug overdose.
The 29-year-old rapper of K-pop boy band Big Bang was found unconscious at a police station where he was undertaking mandatory military service, and rushed to intensive care at a Seoul medical centre Tuesday.
"Choi's condition is very bad," said one of T.O.P's doctors at the Ewha Womans University Medical Centre, referring to the singer by his real name, Choi Seung-Hyun.
T.O.P is "suspected to have overdosed on benzodiazepine" - a class of tranquilizers which includes well-known brand name drugs such as Valium - the doctor added, without specifying whether Choi had a prescription for the drugs.
"He has not fully recovered from lethargy and is unable to make normal eye contact," another doctor on T.O.P's medical team told reporters, adding that it could take up to a week for the rapper to recover.
T.O.P's hospitalisation came a day after he was indicted on charges of smoking marijuana and transferred out of Gangnam Police Station, where he had been been a conscripted policeman since February.
He was working at another police station at the time of his collapse.
Both recreational and medical use of marijuana is illegal in South Korea, and smoking the banned substance is a crime punishable for up to five years in prison or US$44,500 fine.
T.O.P was accused of smoking marijuana on four occasions in his home in Seoul last October and has partially admitted to the charges, issuing a handwritten apology letter.
"I deserve punishment for hurting the (BIGBANG) members, agency, public, fans and family," he said in the letter apparently written on Sunday.
"I'll regret this for tens of thousands of years." More than 60 years after the end of the Korean War, every South Korean man between the age of 18 and 35 is required to perform two years of military service.
The main rationale is the continued threat from nuclear-armed North Korea, given that the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically at war.