A visitor pays his respect to the late Korean novelist Lee Cheong-jun, who died Thursday, at the Samsung Medical Center, southern Seoul. Lee wrote many famous novels and stories including “Seopyeonje” and “Dangsindeului Cheon.” / Yonhap
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Korean master novelist Lee Cheong-jun, known for ``Sopyonje'' and ``Dangsindeului Cheonkuk'' (당신들의 천국) (Your Heaven),'' died Thursday, after losing his battle with lung cancer. He was 68 years old.
Yonhap News reported Lee had been undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer last year. His illness worsened, and he was transferred to the Samsung Medical Center in Ilwon, southern Seoul for further treatment.
Lee was born August 1939 in Jangheung, South Jeolla Province. In 1965, his short story ``Toewon'' (퇴원) won the Sasanggye New Writer Prize. Two years later, he won a Dongin Literature Award for ``Stupid and Fool'' (Byeongsingwa Meojeori) (병신과 머저리).
Throughout his four decade-long career, Lee wrote more than 100 short stories, 13 novels.
Lee's work has influenced a generation of Korean writers and helped improve the overall quality of Korean literature. He has won some of Korean literature's top awards, including the Yi Sang Literature Award, Republic of Korea Literature Award, Hankook Ilbo's Creative Literature award, and recently, the Ho-Am Arts Prize.
Lee wrote several short novels about the traditional Korean musical art, pansori, such as ``Sonpyonje,'' ``The Light of Pansori'' and ``The Wanderer of Seonhak-dong.''
``Sopyonje'' is about a traditional pansori master who travels the country with his adopted son and daughter. Director Im Kwon-taek adapted his novel into a film of the same title in 1993. It was the first Korean film to attract one million viewers in Seoul, and it also garnered acclaim from critics in Korea and abroad.
Lee's novel ``The Wanderer of Seonghak-dong," was again the basis of another movie by Im, "Thousand Year Crane," released last year.
Another short story ``A Story of a Worm," provided the plot for the acclaimed film ``Secret Sunshine, directed by Lee Chang-dong and starred Jeon Do-yeon, who won the Cannes Film Festival Best Actress award for the role.
Many of his novels and short stories have been translated and published in the United States, Japan, China, France, Germany, Spain and Turkey.
Despite being sick, he published a new fiction novel last year. He also published a collection of short stories last November.
Lee is survived by his wife and a daughter. His body is at the Samsung Medical Center mortuary, Room 14. Call (02) 3410-6914.